Say goodbye to Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Star Alliance flyers. Well, get ready to say your goodbyes, at least.
That's the shocking takeaway from some behind-the-scenes moves in the airline industry announced on Tuesday. After filing for bankruptcy last year, the Copenhagen-based airline announced it found some new owners: A U.S. investment firm, the Danish government, and … Air France-KLM. In doing so, it'll pull SAS into the SkyTeam alliance along with Delta, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, and other carriers, the airline confirmed.
There's no clear timeline for SAS's exit from the massive Star Alliance, though it won't happen immediately – the airline's news release says only that it will “eventually join” SkyTeam. Plus, the entire deal is contingent on a slew of regulatory approvals to move ahead.
Whether you're a once- or twice-a-year traveler or a jet-set frequent flyer, airline alliances and partnerships are critical. They allow travelers to connect more seamlessly from one airline to another, share benefits, earn their favorite airline's miles even when flying another carrier, and – most importantly, redeem miles from one airline to fly on a dozen or more different carriers all across the globe. Paying cash or using miles, alliances open up the world.
And opening up flights with SAS is no small thing. The airline flies to nearly 10 cities in North America, from Boston (BOS) to Los Angeles (LAX) and many others in between. And they don't just fly nonstop to their primary hub in Copenhagen (CPH), but also to Oslo (OSL), Stockholm (ARN), and several smaller Scandinavian airports.
As part of the Star Alliance, you could earn miles with United, Air Canada, and 20-plus more partners even when flying SAS – or vice versa, booking SAS flights across the Atlantic using United MileagePlus miles or Air Canada Aeroplan points.
If and when it's made official, Star Alliance's loss will be SkyTeam's gain.
It'll open the door to booking those same flights with Delta SkyMiles, Air France-KLM Flying Blue, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points. Another option to get to Europe will be a welcome addition to the alliance. Virgin Atlantic was the latest airline to officially join the SkyTeam earlier this year, but SAS would make 20 airlines overall.
We haven't flown SAS business class across the pond ourselves – finding the award availability to book these seats with miles can be a chore – but it gets good marks for comfort and service. The airline's premium economy seats, dubbed SAS Plus, are solid and regularly sell for a bargain.
Over time, the shift to Sky Team could have bigger implications for flyers heading to Scandinavia. It could eventually convince the airline to fly in and out of Delta hubs where they can schedule smoother connections – at the expense of major United hubs like Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD), and San Francisco (SFO).
If all goes according to plan, SAS will exit the Star Alliance and join SkyTeam with the likes of Delta, Air France, KLM, and more.
There's no clear timeline yet. But over time, it could have huge implications for earning and redeeming miles – and maybe even how you can fly to Scandinavia and back.