Ralph, another fellow blogger based here in The Netherlands, responded with his own critique last month. The text is all in Dutch, so use Google or Bing to translate the page if you struggle!
As a quick filler, Mike and I both share a common dislike for Skyteam for their lack of ‘prestigious' airlines and their comparatively poor redemption rates. These are both arguments that Ralph acknowledges, but he defense comes as the following:
- If you are flying out of Amsterdam and around Europe, it makes little financial and time sense to connect in other cities unless you have no choice. KLM's in-flight product and service is adequte and flights aren't too expensive compared to its competition. Ralph does acknowledge that for long-haul services you may be better off going to another alliance in some cases though!
- Skyteam Elite level offers more published benefits than Star Alliance Silver, and even guarantees extra baggage allowance. This isn't even an alliance-wide benefit on OneWorld until you hit their top Emerald level, as it is controlled by airlines at Ruby and Sapphire level.
- Skyteam's alliance-wide treatment of their “Sky Priority” passengers is good. Also given the conspicuous signage around Skyteam hubs, it's easy to tell if you're meant to head to the front of the security check queue or not.
Let's go through the list. In general, it makes no financial sense to optionally take a connection around Europe. Even if the base fare of the ticket remains the same, the taxes and airport fees are simply too high to make it worthwhile if only for air miles. (With the notable exception of the Amsterdam to Jersey tier point run.) However if you can spend time visiting the cities I can see that as a justification for taking (long) intra-European connections.
At Silver level, Star Alliance offers priority airport standby and priority reservations waitlisting. In other words, nothing. One exception to this is that Lufthansa Frequent Traveller status (Star Alliance Silver) does give access to Lufthansa's Business Class Lounge if flying with them on the same day.
Whilst I strive for cabin luggage-only travel, extra baggage is a genuine money-saving benefit if you occasionally take an extra piece. Only individual travel patterns can dictate whether this is of any value to you.
Finally on the signage, I won't try to invalidate Ralph's point, as clear signage is almost always a good thing. I do love breezing past airport security and other necessary checks, though I would prefer to do it with some level of discreetness rather than in the face of 30 infrequent travellers waiting in line. Being British it feels so awkward to be jumping ahead of queues, that I feel embarrassed when I feel the other passengers' eyes staring at the back of me!
So what do you think readers? Has Ralph gotten it spot on? Do you have anything to add?