Most Australian credit card reward programs partner with a range of airlines including Qantas, Virgin Australia and others across Oneworld and the Star Alliance. Several Australian banks also partner with carriers such as Emirates and Etihad Airways. But, curiously, almost none of Australia’s credit card loyalty schemes offer the ability to transfer points to a SkyTeam airline. Why is that?
SkyTeam frequent flyer programs are valuable to Australians
In normal times (when international borders are open), 7 of the 19 SkyTeam member airlines operate dozens of daily international flights from Australia to Asia, New Zealand and the United States. Many of these SkyTem airlines also offer easy onward connections to Europe and the Middle East.
Before COVID-19, many of these SkyTeam airlines had tons of award availability on their flights to Australia – including during school holidays, and in Business and First Class. It was always far easier to find reward seats on SkyTeam flights than on Qantas or Oneworld flights – and this will likely continue once regular international travel eventually resumes.
A major reason for this is that so many Australians are locked in to earning Qantas Frequent Flyer points. Qantas last year boasted that around 1 in 3 Australian credit cards earns Qantas points. That’s great for Qantas, but means that when redeeming points for reward flights, Qantas Frequent Flyer members are competing for limited award availability on Qantas and Oneworld flights with millions of other Australians. Meanwhile, very few Australians have access to points or miles with a SkyTeam airline – meaning all those available award seats on SkyTeam airlines go begging.
Which Australian banks offer point transfers to SkyTeam airlines?
If you’re a savvy frequent flyer and want to earn credit card points in Australia that are transferrable to a SkyTeam airline, your options are currently extremely limited.
If you have a look at AFF’s Credit Card Points Transfer Matrix or Credit Card Points Transfer Assistant tool, you’ll notice that only 3 of the 10 major Australian credit card rewards programs partner with any SkyTeam airline:
- Diners Club Rewards points can be converted at a 2:1 rate to Air France/KLM Flying Blue or GarudaMiles
- CommBank Awards points can be converted at a 3:1 rate to Air France/KLM Flying Blue or China Eastern Miles
- Citi Prestige cardholders can convert their Citi Rewards points at a 3:1 rate to Air France/KLM Flying Blue or GarudaMiles
So, at least some Australian credit card programs do offer some limited SkyTeam options. However, CommBank Awards warns that its transfer partners and transfer rates could change at any time and doesn’t even publish an updated list of partner frequent flyer programs on its website.
It’s also worth noting that the Garuda and China Eastern frequent flyer programs are quite user-unfriendly. With GarudaMiles, for example, you would still have to physically visit one of the four Garuda Indonesia sales offices in Australia to redeem your miles for flight tickets!
So, some more options with other SkyTeam loyalty programs would be most welcome. Korean Air, Alitalia and Delta, for example, all have relatively attractive and user-friendly frequent flyer programs.
It would also be great if more Australian credit card reward schemes adopted SkyTeam partner airlines.
Why don’t more Australian banks partner with SkyTeam airlines?
The short answer seems to be that most banks underestimate the level of demand for a SkyTeam program partner.
Credit card reward programs like American Express Membership Rewards are constantly monitoring customer feedback and changes to the travel industry. The range of airline partners is based on the needs of consumers, including where they want to travel and which airlines they want to travel with.
That’s part of the reason almost every Australian bank has a relationship with Qantas, Virgin Australia and airlines like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Air New Zealand which all have a large presence in the Australian market. At the same time, no Australian banks have partnerships with airlines like Sri Lankan Airlines, All Nippon Airways or Vietnam Airlines which each only fly to two Australian destinations.
But if the range of transfer partners is based on customer demand, it’s curious that so many banks still give their customers the option to transfer to programs like Malaysia Airlines Enrich or Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus – which are both now very poor value programs after successive and significant devaluations – yet not to any frequent flyer programs of SkyTeam airlines.
A source at a SkyTeam airline told Australian Frequent Flyer that they had approached numerous Australian credit card providers about setting up a frequent flyer program partnership, but were unsuccessful. For reasons which were not explained, it seems the banks didn’t think this particular airline’s frequent flyer program would be attractive enough to Australian consumers.
Many Australian frequent flyers would welcome at least the option to transfer their points to any SkyTeam airline. Such a facility would open up so many new redemption options, when international travel resumes, that would otherwise be inaccessible to most Australians. That’s an attractive proposition to savvy consumers deciding which credit card to apply for.