The SkyTeam Alliance is one of the 3 main airline alliances in the world. The SkyTeam gets little attention compared to Star Alliance and Oneworld, but as you’ll find out in this guide, it’s extremely useful to know the ins and outs of SkyTeam award searches; especially with the U.S. constituent of Delta Air Lines.
SkyTeam may not have a plethora of first class award possibilities like Oneworld or the expansive route network like Star Alliance, but what it does serve is routes and markets that are typically not served by the 2 other alliances.
As always, you’ll want to have an idea of what routes and countries you want to search for before diving into this guide. For example, if you want to fly to France via Los Angeles, you’ll see that Air France offers nonstop flights. You’ll also find that Air France is a SkyTeam airline, and you can follow the below steps to search for award availability.
In this guide, you’ll find how to best utilize the most powerful search engines for SkyTeam flights. Initially, you’ll see how, step-by-step, to use the search engine. Then, you’ll find the pros and cons associated with each search engine.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
What is the SkyTeam Alliance?
The SkyTeam Alliance is the smallest airline alliance of the big three.
In comparison to Star Alliance and Oneworld, this is also the youngest airline alliance. In June of 2000, Aeromexico, Air France, Delta Air Lines, and Korean Air met in New York to form an airline alliance, which became known as SkyTeam.
Other member airlines include:
- Xiamen Airlines
- Vietnam Airlines
- Saudia Airlines
- Middle East Airlines
- Korean Air
- Kenya Airways
- Garuda Indonesia
- Delta Air Lines
- Czech Airlines
- China Eastern
- China Airlines
- Air France
- Air Europa
- Aerolineas Argentinas
Although you can generally book SkyTeam flight awards using any of these airlines’ loyalty programs, you’ll find out that you should probably only use a few airlines’ search engines.
Broadly speaking, every airline has different capabilities for searching and presenting airline award inventory in a palatable way. Some airlines do not even have the ability to display partners with online searches, which can add a significant amount of time to your search.
Here’s a look at some of the best ways to reduce the time burden and optimize your award searches when looking for SkyTeam award availability.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Overall, Air France has the most accurate and user-friendly award search engine for SkyTeam airlines. In addition, you can search for award flights with non-SkyTeam partners such as Aircalin, Air Tahiti Nui, and Transavia.
Generally speaking, you’ll also want to focus your earning of points and miles on Air France/KLM Flying Blue for the simple reason that other SkyTeam airlines don’t have the most attractive redemption rates.
Hot Tip: Want to know more about using Flying Blue miles? Check out this in-depth guide on the best ways to redeem Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles!
The award search query will look like this:
Here’s how to get started with searching for award flights using Flying Blue.
- Visit Air France’s website.
- You’ll likely be prompted to continue to the Air France USA website. Click Continue.
- On the left side of the page where there’s a search box, toggle Use Your Miles.
- Click Sign in and log in using your Flying Blue number/e-mail address and Password.
- You’ll be returned to the search page. Choose your trip type, whether it’s Round trip, One-way, or Multi-city.
- Type in your origin and destination cities.
- Choose your departure and return dates.
- Check the box that says You’re looking for a flight around these dates.
- This makes your award search flexible. Flying Blue has the capabilities of displaying an entire calendar for each segment, which is one of the most powerful tools out there. It’s always a good idea to make your searches flexible to maximize your chances of snagging an award flight, particularly in business class.
- Select the number of passengers
- Choose your cabin class. Keep in mind that you can’t book award flights in first class with Air France/KLM Flying Blue.
- Booking first class award flights with SkyTeam airlines is generally very tough.
- Confirm your awards and book using your preferred currency, which will most likely be Flying Blue miles.
- If booking with Flying Blue miles, simply select your outbound and inbound flights.
- Call Air France at +1-800-375-8723 to confirm award availability (make sure it’s not phantom award space).
- Transfer your points and miles.
- Complete your booking online by performing the same search again and paying with your miles for any taxes and fees.
As you can see, you’ll also enjoy the benefit of seeing the dates where the Lowest Fare is available simply by looking at the green icon above each date that has the Lowest Fare.
It’s important to confirm that the award availability you found is not phantom availability. In other words, there are situations in which the award flights aren’t actually redeemable with miles. If you transfer your points and miles without checking, you could be left with Flying Blue miles that you can’t use.
Air France/KLM’s award search isn’t very complicated at all, but here are the pros and cons.
Here are the biggest pros:
- Easy-to-use online interface
- Very accurate, save the occasional phantom award availability
- Can potentially get business class bookings for cheaper by playing with routes
- Calendar search allows you to search an expansive inventory of flights for availability
Here are the biggest cons:
- Their variable award pricing makes it difficult to see whether an award flight is at the “saver level” if using another partner to book such as Korean Air
- Phantom availability can occur. To overcome this, you can double-check with another search engine or call Flying Blue to confirm award availability
- Cannot search U.S. domestic Delta flights on the website. Use the KLM or Air France mobile apps to search these
- Can’t search first class award availability
Delta Air Lines is the U.S. airline apart of SkyTeam, and while it’s known for charging ridiculous amounts of miles for Delta One Suites, Delta does offer an excellent way to search for SkyTeam award availability.
The main reason you’d want to search using Delta is the fact that the search engine is familiar. Most of us have used Delta’s website at one point in time, and it’s generally a super-accessible user interface.
It’s not the most accurate and certainly not the most exhaustive search engine so this means that you can’t see every possible award available.
Steps to search Delta:
- Go to Delta’s homepage. You don’t need a Delta SkyMiles account to search for award availability, which is a plus.
- On the top banner of the page, type in the airport codes of your origin and destination.
- Select the trip type, whether it’s Round Trip, One Way, or Multi-City.
- Choose your flight dates. Be sure to check the box that says Flexible Dates.
- Select the number of passengers.
- Click Advanced Search and Show Price In Miles.
- Choose Best Fares for the booking class you want to search for. For business class bookings, you’ll want to select Delta One®.
- Once your search results are returned, you’ll see that a box that says Calendar View and shows Flexible Days selected. You can make this search even more flexible by toggling to 5 Weeks
- Write down the flight numbers, dates, and times of the flights you want to book.
- Book using your preferred frequent flyer program.
Notice that the current results view displays a week’s worth of flights. You can display up to 5 weeks of flights as shown here:
Now that you’ve seen how to use Delta’s award search engine, the main pros of using Delta to search for award availability are:
- 5-week search can significantly cut down on the time spent searching for award flights
- Usually accurate award availability
- Easiest search engine to use, as you don’t need any loyalty accounts to access it
Here are the main cons of using Delta to search for award availability:
- Limited variety of award availability is shown when multiple flights are available
- Displays Delta awards before other airlines
- Phantom availability is a possibility. You can overcome this by double-checking with another SkyTeam airline such as Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- Pricing is poor for Delta-operated flights. Use it strictly for award searches
Korean Air SKYPASS
Korean Air is one of the only remaining airlines on which you can book SkyTeam first class using awards. There are additional restrictions that you must follow pertaining to both award travel and searches.
It used to be easy to rack up Korean Air miles by transferring from Chase Ultimate Rewards, though that transfer capability has since been removed. The only way you’ll be able to transfer points to Korean Air is via Marriott.
Hot Tip: If you want Korean Air miles, check out our in-depth guide on the best ways to earn lots of Korean Air SKYPASS miles.
Korean Air offers attractive redemption rates, though the lack of transfer partners will generally steer you away from booking with Korean Air miles, unless you’re looking for a niche redemption such as Korean Air First Class. If that sounds like something you’d want to book on points, here’s the complete guide on booking Korean Air first class with points and miles as well.
With Korean Air, you can only search for round-trip flights. Additionally, search results don’t display all possible awards at times. Lastly, the search engine is clunky and can take forever to finish a single search.
To search award flights using Korean Air, follow these steps:
- Visit Korean Air SKYPASS.
- On the top gray banner, click Login.
- Enter your User ID or SKYPASS Number, followed by your Password. Click Log in.
- Click Award Booking to the right of Booking.
- Select SkyTeam Award if searching for non-Korean Air flights.
- Choose either Korean Air award or SkyTeam Award.
- Choose between Round Trip or Multi-City.
- Type in your origin and destination cities, and select your departure and return dates.
- Choose your cabin class. Choose Prestige Class for long-haul business class. Choose First Class for long-haul or domestic first class.
- Choose your Payment Currency. Click Find Flights
- Choose your inbound and outbound flights. Select payment currency at the bottom-right of the results page. Click Calculate. You’ll see the Korean Air mileage cost along with taxes and fees if you’re booking using Korean Air miles.
- Book your selected flights using your preferred frequent flyer program.
- Korean Air is very stingy about releasing partner award flights in business and first class. If you want to book Korean Air first class, your only option is via Korean Air SKYPASS. Booking Korean Air business class is possible, though you won’t get enhanced access to award inventory through partners.
In theory, using Korean Air sounds like a pretty easy process, and it is if you’re booking Korean Air flights and not booking for anybody traveling with you.
The thing is, Korean Air only allows travelers to book for themselves and immediate family members. Even then, you need to provide proof of relationship, which can be a long, drawn-out process. You’re better off just creating frequent flyer accounts for each companion and transferring miles there.
Here are the main pros of using Korean Air SKYPASS for your SkyTeam searches:
- Best award inventory for Korean Air flights (though it’s practically useless unless you plan to book using Korean Air miles)
- One of the few remaining options to search for award flights in first class
Here are the main cons of using Korean Air SKYPASS for your SkyTeam searches:
- Cannot search one-way flights
- Not all results are shown
- Searches can take a long time
- If you decide to book using SKYPASS, you’ll only be able to book for direct family members after submitting proof of relationship
ExpertFlyer is yet again a useful tool for searching for award flights in nearly every circumstance. There are a few airlines on which you can’t search award space, such as Cathay Pacific, but SkyTeam airlines are generally safe from this limitation.
The unique thing with many SkyTeam airlines is that they use variable award pricing, and ExpertFlyer will search for the lowest level awards.
For example, if Air France’s Flying Blue charges a minimum of 67,500 miles on business class for a certain route, it will not display award availability if the cheapest flight is 72,000 miles, which is still a reasonable amount to pay. Just keep this in mind as you go about your ExpertFlyer searches.
With ExpertFlyer’s Basic subscription that costs $4.99 per month, you’ll be able to search for a limited number of awards per month. With their premium membership, you’ll spend $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year to have unlimited award searches, flexible search dates, award availability alerts, and other perks.
Put simply, ExpertFlyer is a website that acts as an aggregate search engine for award flights. In addition to searching for award flights, you can also set up flight alerts that notify you when specific award seats open up.
Follow these steps to get started:
- Go to ExpertFlyer’s homepage.
- Log into your ExpertFlyer account.
- Click the button that says Awards & Upgrades.
- Type in your origin and destination airports.
- Choose your departure and arrival dates.
- Premium members can toggle flexible dates up to +/- 3 days.
- Select your airline from the dropdown box.
- Choose your fare classes.
- You can choose to search nonstop flights only by switching Connection Preference to Direct/Non-Stop Only.
- Click Search.
The great thing about ExpertFlyer is that you can set up flight alerts that notify you when a particular award flight has space in the fare class you want!
Another benefit is the ability to view occupied and vacant seats with their seat map functionality.
Hot Tip: Want even more insights on this tool? Check out our article: How To Use ExpertFlyer To Automatically Search for Award Space & Upgrades.
Here are the main pros of using ExpertFlyer for award searches:
- You can search for essentially any SkyTeam airline’s award space here
- With a premium subscription, you can search flexible dates and delegate your work to flight alerts
- You can search for upgrade and award fares
- Seat map capabilities will optimize your seat choices
Here are the main cons of using ExpertFlyer for award searches:
- Far too many options. A lot of times, ExpertFlyer is simply so powerful that you can’t display all the results, and you’ll need to filter them out
- Paid service. While you can try out the Premium service for 5 days, you’ll need to pay to get access to ExpertFlyer
Overall, the SkyTeam alliance should not be overlooked. There are tons of great ways to book award travel, such as on Air France business class or Korean Air first class. The variable award pricing that a lot of the major SkyTeam airlines use can make locating Saver awards more difficult, but it can be worth it to optimize your travel.
Our first choice for SkyTeam award searches is Air France/KLM Flying Blue. They’re generally the most accurate, with the rare occurrence of phantom availability. The online user interface is easy to grasp, and points transfers are instantaneous, which can make your award booking process seamless.
Our next choice is Delta. Delta operates a familiar and extremely easy-to-use award search engine. In fact, you don’t even need a frequent flyer account to perform award searches. Just be wary that Delta doesn’t show every award available, and it displays Delta award flights preferentially over partners.
Our last airline choice is Korean Air SKYPASS. The main reason why you’d want to use them is if you’re looking for Korean Air flights. Korean Air SKYPASS has exponentially more award inventory than their partners for Korean Air flights, which makes using their search engine more attractive. Other than that, you can’t search one-way flights, and award searches are not comprehensive with Korean Air SKYPASS.
Lastly, ExpertFlyer is the true winner. However, it’s a paid service, which is difficult to justify for some award travelers. The time savings probably makes the small monthly fee worth it for most of us. The award searches are excellent, and you can search on virtually any SkyTeam airline using ExpertFlyer.
Feature Image Credit: SkyTeam.com