Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Global Alliance Options To Taiwan

With my affinity for Taiwan (since my parents are from there), and having visited a number of times the past few years, it's always been a frustration of mine that neither of the two major Taiwanese carriers, China Airlines and EVA Air, belonged to any global alliance. Well, soon that will no longer be the case.

China Airlines will officially become a member of Skyteam on September 28, 2011. And although CI has long been a partner of Delta Airlines and one could redeem Skymiles with them, formalizing the alliance relationship should make award seats more readily available for all members of Skyteam as well as standardize the miles needed for redemption (which I believe has already been reflected in the new Delta award chart). However, due to reciprocity agreements, Delta Skymiles members will still be unable to redeem for F seats due to the lack of an international F product on Delta itself. It's a shame since CI's F suites for the LAX-TPE route actually look fairly decent.

Even more exciting, however, was EVA Air's announcement on February 23, 2011 that they have formally applied for entry into Star Alliance. As great as CI joining Skyteam is, the thought of accumulating more Skypesos is a tough pill to swallow. But with the possibility of EVA joining Star Alliance, the more valuable United/Continental miles just got even better. I think EVA will nicely compliment the routes that OZ, NH, CA and SQ already fly, and ultimately give Star Alliance the edge in terms of global reach in Asia. And best of all, it finally gives us Bay Area folks a real redemption alternative for SFO-TPE nonstop. Granted, EVA doesn't have a first class offering, but the announcement of them revamping their Premium Laurel Class is welcome news, and hopefully they will finally go with fully flat beds to catch up with the business standards of late. No word yet on when they might become a full member (assuming they are even accepted), but my best guess would be early 2013.

And finally, though not directly related to a Taiwanese airline, Malaysia Airlines just announced yesterday that they have been formally accepted into the OneWorld Alliance. The official entry date will most likely be mid to late 2012. The main reason why this is relevant is because of MH's route from LAX-KUL via TPE. This will allow members of American Airlines AAdvantage program or British Airways Executive Club (if you took advantage of the Chase BA Visa 100,000 mile promotion) to finally redeem for a USA-Taipei direct flight on the 3rd largest global alliance. MH offers a fairly decent J product on their 2-class 777-200ER out of LAX, though it is an angle-flat seat.

If anything, the integration of Taiwan's airlines into the global alliance system should benefit business travelers, who can finally receive reciprocal lounge access and earn miles in their "native" FFP, as well as allow for tourists to perhaps consider Taiwan as a vacation destination their accumulated miles can now reach with more ease. And finally, it gives us travel enthusiasts the means to try out the premium offerings of airlines that were previously off limits.

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