Nwa And Skyteam


Oct 29, 2002
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Friday, August 27, 2004

Northwest to join air alliance

Airline would partner with 8 global carriers to broaden bookings

By Joel J. Smith / The Detroit News

Travel options

Airlines 9

Destinations 637

Daily departures 13,871

Airline clubs 448

Airline hub cities 27

Source: SkyTeam

Passengers will be able to book flights with several SkyTeam alliance carriers on one ticket.

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Northwest Airlines will join an alliance of nine global carriers on Sept. 13 that will allow it to book passengers to 637 destinations around the world.

Through the alliance, called SkyTeam, Northwest can book legs of a trip through one of the other eight member airlines. In return, those airlines are permitted to book seats on Northwest. Each airline used for a portion of the trip will receive part of the passenger’s ticket fare.

For travelers, the agreement will make it easier to book many international flights through Northwest, Detroit Metro Airport’s dominant carrier.

“The bottom line is, the more airline partners the better,†said Klaus-Peter Martin, who leads international trips as a communications manager at General Motors Corp. “Anywhere you want to go around the world, you can use a partner airline. Making travel arrangements is a lot easier.â€

Airline analysts predict that financially strapped Northwest could earn $200 million or more annually from the arrangement, mostly by flying passengers who never would have considered the airline to reach a particular destination.

“It will be a huge benefit to Northwest,†said Joel Denney, an airline analyst with U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis. “You get the strengths of all the carriers in a much larger route network that you can work with. It expands Northwest’s reach and helps them go after the more premium passengers.â€

An announcement is scheduled to be made in New York City on Sept. 13.

Northwest, Continental Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will join SkyTeam, the four-year-old alliance that includes Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air.

Northwest declined to talk about the benefits of SkyTeam until the formal announcement next month.

Here’s how it will work:

If a Metro Detroiter wanted to fly to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam with the SkyTeam alliance connections, he or she could book the entire flight with a Northwest ticket.

The passenger would fly Northwest to Seoul, Korea, and board a Korean Air flight to Vietnam.

The trip would be seamless. Baggage automatically would be transferred, airline clubs of both carriers could be used and frequent flyer miles for the entire trip could be accumulated.

That’s not the case now.

Amy Klinke, who works for the Washtenaw County government administration, traveled to Ho Chi Minh City last November for vacation.

She didn’t have just one ticket or earn frequent flyer miles for the entire trip.

Klinke flew Northwest to Bangkok, Thailand. She ended up taking Vietnam Air for the last leg of the trip.

“That was a little frightening,†Klinke said. “I’m in favor of anything that makes it easier and less expensive to fly overseas. Until now, you don’t have that many options when you fly to out-of-the-way places on Northwest.â€

It’s too early to tell how much revenue Northwest will gain from this partnership. But Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo., said any new revenue will benefit the airline.

“Will it be $1 billion for Northwest? No, but it might be worth $200 million in new business,†said Boyd, an aviation consultant. “It will be revenue they don’t have now, and it comes with very little cost.â€

He said the business traveler will appreciate the ease of connections and the use of airline clubs for layovers.

“There is no downside, only an upside, to joining this alliance,†Boyd said.

The nine airlines in SkyTeam will have access to 27 hub airports around the world offering a total of 13,871 daily departures.

You can reach Joel Smith at (313) 222-2556 or [email protected].