One of the coolest things, in my opinion, about the airline industry are the airline alliances and their other partners. In the US we have the ‘big 3’ airlines covering all major alliances:
- Oneworld (US member – American)
- SkyTeam (US member – Delta)
- Star Alliance (US member – United)
On top of that are the many airline partnerships that individual airlines have with each other. For instance, Alaska has solidified itself as one of the premier airline currencies simply because of its award redemption opportunities with partner airlines — but Alaska is not part of one of the major airline alliances.
While I would definitely say that airline partnerships are positive and helpful a majority of the time, there is one major aspect that seems to be overlooked.
It may seem obvious to some, but overlooked by many.
I was recently booking a trip for some friends, and to avoid going into too much detail here’s what they were looking for:
- Flight to Europe (into, and out of two separate locations)
- Not very flexible dates in the summer
- Would like to use Chase Ultimate Rewards
So the obvious thought here is — “ok, flights to Europe, that’s easy.” Honestly, this is true. From the east coast to Europe there is plenty of award availability overall — and luckily with Chase’s 9 travel partners a majority of those award redemption’s are covered for Chase card holders.
The use of these travel partners is what I think threw this friend of mine off. With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you are transferring your points to an airline (or hotel) to be used as that programs currency. Whereas redeeming from one airline to a partner airline is just that — using one airlines miles directly for a flight on a partner airline.
Their a bit more limitations in the ladder scenario, and I think where a lot of people get hung up. So let’s take the scenario that I was stuck having to explain:
- My friend was able to find a flight on Air France, and would plan to transfer his Chase Ultimate Rewards to his Flying Blue account
- I also am looking at flights around the same time and was able to find a pretty attractive Delta One fare (luckily I have a stack of Delta Skymiles)
- Based on the knowledge that Delta and Flying Blue were part of the Skyteam Alliance, my friend thought — “why, couldn’t I use those new Flying Blue points on the same Delta Flight.”
Woah, woah, woah.
So first let me say — yes, that is a possibility to redeem those Flying Blue points for the flight on Delta.
But that is not what my friend was asking. His thought was to transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Flying Blue to Delta. I wouldn’t consider myself seasoned in the least, but it did make me think that maybe I overlooked that when informing others. Are points transferable between partner airlines?
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. All partner airlines have what is known as a codeshare agreement — which will explain the numerous flight numbers you may see in the airport. As a frequent Atlanta traveler I always notice the Aeromexico, Korean, etc. flight numbers for my Delta operated flights.
What this means is that someone with Aeromexico or Korean (or any other Skyteam member’s) miles could potentially redeem those miles for a Delta operated flight. Of course, as many people know, Delta does leave a lot to be desired in this department. I will be the first to list off all the great things about Delta, but they are known to keep their award availability close to the [Delta website] chest.
When and where to actually redeem miles
I will say that in order to redeem on partner airlines with these alliances, it is pretty straightforward. While you have the opportunity to travel on many different airlines, there is really only one way to redeem those miles.
I think the key here is knowing where there is value. Delta One with Air France miles is probably not going to be your best value — but switching gears, and going to United may provide you more options.
In the event that you are “restrained” to one points currency, I’d recommend reading up on what award flights on other airlines cost using a specific points currency. Keeping with the example above, Delta SkyMiles will most definitely require the least amount of points on a Delta flight. And while I would say that’s consistent across, there are some specific circumstances when you may want to look out for certain awards to open up.
So what am I getting at here?
I really just wanted to point out that a partner airline means you can redeem points for flights on a different airline, by sharing a code with the airline you carry points with. Points between partner airlines are not transferable – so just because Air France and Delta are part of the Skyteam Alliance, doesn’t mean 50,000 Skymiles are 50,000 FlyingBlue points.