I've never been a fan of global airline alliances.
Sure, there are potential convenience gains for travelers, when alliance-linked airlines coordinate their schedules and share airport terminals. But the big gains from these alliances—lower costs and more pricing power—flow in the airlines' direction, not toward consumers.
And in the long run, they're anti-competitive: More cooperation means less competition, which inevitably translates into higher ticket prices.
In the short term, however, consumers do stand to gain from the occasional competitive flare-up among the alliances. A case in point is this new double-mile offer from Delta and other SkyTeam airlines that clearly targets the other two alliances: oneworld (American, British Airways, Iberia, etc.) and Star (United, Lufthansa, etc.).
Through January 31, 2011, SkyMiles members can earn double miles for flights on Delta or its SkyTeam partners (Air France, KLM, Alitalia) on the following routes:
- Between New York and Manchester, United Kingdom; Barcelona, Spain; Madrid, Spain; Frankfurt, Germany; Brussels, Belgium
- Between Newark and Rome, Italy
- Between Chicago and Rome, Italy; Paris, France; Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Between Houston and Paris, France; Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Between Seattle and Paris, France
- Between Dallas-Ft. Worth and Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Between Washington-Dulles and Amsterdam, Netherlands
Notice that the promoted flights are overwhelmingly from airports dominated by American and United (including Continental) and their alliance partners, rather than from Delta's own hub airports.
Registration is required.
Deal or No Deal
The biggest negative to the offer is that there isn't more of it. Significantly absent from the bonus-eligible routes are Delta's Europe flights from Atlanta, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis.
But that's the nature of this promotion. It isn't so much about increasing business from Delta hubs as it is about taking business away from Delta's (and SkyTeam's) competitors.
On the positive side, this offer applies to any fare that would normally earn miles, not just to select higher-priced fares. And it's in effect for three full months, including the Christmas/New Year's holiday.
If you're headed to Europe and can conveniently make use of one of the featured flights, this is a good opportunity to add a significant number of miles to your SkyMiles account. Flying from Houston to Paris, for example, nets 5,021 miles each way, so with the bonus you'd return from your trip with 20,084 miles. (The bonus miles do not count toward elite status, incidentally.)
On the other hand, if you're a partisan of airlines in one of the other alliances, you might want to hold off booking for now. There's a chance that Delta's promotion will spur a counter-offer from American or United, or from their alliance partners.
Reader Reality Check
How important are the airline alliances to your choice of carrier?
Would you make a connection, prolonging your flight time, to fly one of the eligible routes and earn double miles?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.