Reader Simon T. was asking me what I thought to be the best Skyteam frequent flier program to earn miles for his many flights to China, usually on China Eastern or China Southern.
Across all programs, generally I find North American programs to be the most generous, Asian programs the most stingy, and European programs in between. When accruing partner miles, you need to pay attention to the fare class you are booked in, as different fare classes accrue at different rates, some classes may not even receive miles. As long as you are not booking deeply discounts coach fares, you should be able to accrue miles, but check each FF program for details.
Skyteam airlines which fly to HKG are China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Airfrance, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines and Aeroflot (which I will not include in this post.) Normally I wouldn’t even recommend Skyteam compared to OneWorld or Star Alliance but if you don’t have a choice, here are my thoughts:
I cannot recommend China Eastern since I couldn’t even find a link to their FF program on their homepage. Once I clicked on a random “sign-up” link, I found something called Eastern Miles, but I couldn’t find any information about earning or redeeming miles. Oye vey!
China Southern has a program called Sky Pearl Club. The tacky web site really turned me off though, and I really didn’t want to dig around for information. (I thought Chinese people were supposed to be good with technology?) In any case, I persevered and summarized the information here: (see how nice I am to you guys?)
The redemption values for Skyteam partners are very poor, so I won’t even address mileage accrual. 145,000 km (yes they use km) = approx 90,000 mi for a coach ticket from HKG to North America, Europe, or North Africa. Most programs charge only 60,000 miles. For 80,000 km = 50,000 mi you can fly from HKG to North Asia.
Delta Skymiles provides status benefits at 25,000 mi/30 segments and goes up at that interval from there. Skyteam lounge access at Gold: 50K/60 segments.
Skymiles or (Skypesos as others say, because they’re so worthless for Delta redemption) are middle of the road for redemption from HKG. The awards to North Asia are 25,000 miles roundtrip, 70,000 miles to North America, and surprisingly 40,000 miles to Hawaii
Delta’s partner accrual chart – Decent accrual on economy fares on MU or CZ.
For travel from Northern Asia
Japan; Korea, Republic of; Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of; China; Hong Kong SAR; Taiwan, Province of; Micronesia; Philippines
Award mileage shown is each-way based on a required round-trip or multi-leg Award Ticket purchase. Customers can combine Economy, First, Business and BusinessElite® cabins and dates at various mileage levels and can search Award Ticket inventory availability up to the last seat.
From Northern Asia: Economy Class First Class or BusinessElite Low Medium High Low Medium High Within Northern Asia1 12,500 20,000 30,000 22,500 30,000 40,000 To Continental US, Alaska and Canada 35,000 60,000 80,000 60,000 110,000 170,000 To Hawaii 20,000 45,000 65,000 35,000 70,000 150,000 To Caribbean 40,000 65,000 85,000 60,000 120,000 185,000 To Mexico 40,000 65,000 85,000 60,000 120,000 185,000 To Central America 40,000 65,000 85,000 60,000 120,000 185,000 To Northern South America 50,000 75,000 105,000 75,000 125,000 195,000 To Southern South America 60,000 80,000 110,000 80,000 130,000 200,000 To Europe 40,000 – – 60,000 – – To Africa 50,000 – – 75,000 – – To Middle East 40,000 – – 60,000 – – To South Asian Subcontinent 25,000 – – 35,000 – – To Southeast Asia 22,500 40,000 50,000 35,000 55,000 75,000 To Southwest Pacific 35,000 – – 55,000 – – Miles shown are each way based on round-trip purchase.
1Within Northern Asia: Economy Class First Class or BusinessElite Low Medium High Low Medium High Japan to/from Korea 7,500 20,000 30,000 15,000 30,000 40,000 Within Korea 5,000 7,500 – 6,000 9,000 – Within China
6,000 – – 7,500 – – Within China
15,000 – – 17,500 – – Within China
30,000 – – 45,000 – – Miles shown are each way based on round-trip purchase. *Short haul is 1-800 km. **Med haul is 800-3,000 km. ***Long haul is 3,000-5,000 km.
Air France provides decent status accrual for non-French and Monegasque (Monaco) residents, Gold benefits are easier to attain vs Delta and provides Skyteam lounge access.
Check partner accrual fare classes.
Required thresholds for the rest of the world
|Membership level||Number of Level Miles||Number of one-way flights*|
When redeeming awards, the values are poor for long distance, but intra-Asia 2 Region seems good at 20K. HKG to TPE / HKG to SIN, etc. I couldn’t find a list of Asia 2 Region countries though, but assume it’s HKG and South. Other redemptions include 80K miles from HKG to CDG or JFK; 40K from HKG to NRT or ICN; 25K for HKG to PEK.
I would recommend Air France for the low threshold to reach Gold, but your redemption probably needs to be in the Asia 2 region for best values.
Korean Airlines has absurdly high mileage redemption requirements for tickets. I wouldn’t even consider this program after looking at the chart. 40K for intra-NE Asia…are you serious? We can fly to Hawaii, U.S.A. for that many miles on Delta.
Northeast Asia (including Korea)
|Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia|
|USA/Canada, Mexico/Hawaii/Central America, Europe, North Africa, Middle East/Near East, South Pacific|
|Latin America 1|
|Latin America 2, Central & South Africa, Indian Ocean|
Vietnam Airlines’ FF program is similar to Korean Airlines, very high redemption for tickets, not worth investigating further.
Class of Service
South East Asia
North East Asia
South West Asia
South West Pacific
|South East Asia|
|North East Asia|
In summary, I think Air France or Delta are the best FF programs in Skyteam for someone based in HKG.
Air France is the easiest qualify for elite status, but redemption levels for long-distance flights to Europe and North America are expensive.
Delta on the other hand has relatively cheaper redemption levels overall, so if you fly a lot and aren’t worried about qualifying for status, this may be the way to go.