Air Travel

ITA Airways and SkyTeam respond to Volare SkyTeam status recognition issue

ITA Airways and SkyTeam respond to Volare SkyTeam status recognition issue

Over the past few weeks I have written about ITA Airways (clone of Alitalia) having set up a new loyalty program called Volare but several months after the carrier became a member of SkyTeam, the airline and the program are still unknown to other alliance partners such as Delta Air Lines.

I contacted several airlines including Delta and ITA as well as SkyTeam to ask for their side of the story and an explanation of the situation which is rather unacceptable at this stage.

With the help of the Delta Air Lines press office, I finally made contact with SkyTeam and ITA, but the news and revelations were not very encouraging.

ITA is essentially the Phoenix rising from the ashes of Alitalia as the airline finally disappeared after decades of burning through hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ and investors’ money.

The carrier even offers a rather generous status match to a range of other programs, but as paired members now try to apply their benefits at select SkyTeam partners when checking in, they’re met with blank stares – no one does not know this airline or the program!

Here is my first article on this problem dating from the end of January:

ITA Airways Volare Program: Membership Issues Not Recognized by SkyTeam Airlines

The situation of an official alliance partner that prints SkyTeam logos on its membership cards and issues elite status, but no one knows it or recognizes the airline code to enter is beyond bizarre, j So I started tracking some of the parties involved.

I contacted the Delta Airlines press liaison first and asked them about it.

Their response :

Dear Sebastian, thank you for your question.

ITA Loyalty is still in development. As you know, the ITA was created last October. I understand from SkyTeam that ITA is currently in rebuild mode, but it is being worked on. …

That doesn’t really say or explain much, does it! ? I decided to ask again and asks for a more specific answer:

Hello Oliver,

So is it the official position of SkyTeams and member airlines that at this time ITA is not a SkyTeam partner and no Elite benefits will be conferred when flying with other airlines (including including Delta)? Although they have a valid membership card showing they are Elite+?

Last October is now six months away, maybe they shouldn’t have been allowed to wear the SkyTeam logo until things were completely clear. Obviously, this is SkyTeams’ fault and not Delta’s responsibility. I think this is what most people are concerned about, including many readers who have encountered exactly this problem on their travels.

Thank you,
Sebastian

That much Delta told me SkyTeam (not explaining why they themselves don’t recognize the ITA at this time):

Dear Sebastian, I present to you Katie from SkyTeam comms as I am not sure if the characterization below by your email is correct.

Thank you Olivia

I addressed the following questions to SkyTeam connection:

The main part is the concern about ITA and program/level alliance-wide recognition.

I would also be interested to know why a carrier is allowed to carry the SkyTeam logo/designation without being able to accept/confer the standard alliance-wide benefits. Shouldn’t ITA’s acceptance into the alliance have been delayed until all the necessary agreements have been put in place?

Delta is just one airline. Korea Air is another one and if I dig deeper there are probably many more that don’t recognize ITA at the moment.

It has now been six months and members are reporting these issues. At the same time, AFKLM Flying Blue does not give miles for ITA flights unless they are booked on a codeshare basis.

This makes it sound like they really need to step up their game or leave the alliance again until these issues are resolved. By the way, the same goes for Alaska Airlines in oneWorld, but at least they recognize all other levels of OW membership, only redeeming the reward is a mess.

Have a good day and thanks again
Sebastian

Sky Team replied:

Hi Sebastian,

Thank you for your patience. Here is the information we have obtained from the ITA and the SkyTeam loyalty team regarding the Volare program.

  1. Volare is no longer in progress. The program was launched and activated earlier this year. The program launched in January but only became available in March.
  2. The program, although operational, has yet to be integrated with SkyTeam and member airlines and this activity did not begin until March 22. So it’s a work in progress.
  3. Recognition of SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus by ITA Airways began in December 2021.
  4. The recognition of Volare Elite and Elite Plus members by SkyTeam will be gradually rolled out from the second quarter of 2022
  5. Reciprocal Earnings and Burn/Redemption with ITA will be phased in from the second half of this year.

As I understand it (since there is no timeline for onboarding a partner) the program is currently not a decent choice for anyone except customers who fly exclusively with ITA but no other carriers “partner”. I have also communicated it to SkyTeam and ITA.

The ITA itself also sent us a statement:

Dear Sebastian,

What you say is correct. As you know, our company is a “start-up” which started its activities about five months ago. Considering this special status, in agreement with the SkyTeam team, it was decided to develop the various contents of the program step by step until the realization of a complete integration of the system with Sky Team and SkyTeam members and service integration. This includes the various services offered such as reciprocal earning and redemption of points between ITA Airways and partner airline flights, access to lounges, recognition for Elite and Elite Plus Volare customers and other benefits of the airline. ‘alliance.

Fair enough. I wish there was a more definitive timeline with actual dates, as customers will hardly choose a loyalty program with an uncertain program structure.

This is the first time in over 15 years in the loyalty game that I’ve seen a loyalty program launched that isn’t recognized by alliance partners, but is allowed to carry the alliance logo and even grants status levels.

I wish them the best, but it’s not pretty and on the face of it, ITA is starting off as a disaster like Alitalia has always been. You can change the fabric, but you can’t get rid of what’s inside.

It would probably have been wise to postpone the date of joining until all agreements between the carriers had been signed and their SkyTeam membership had been effectively recognized.

Conclusion

The ITA Airways Volare program has been live for several months but from what it seems right now there is still an acceptance issue with some carriers who have not heard of the new carrier although they have been admitted to SkyTeam. From statements by parties involved who are privy to the internal details, it appears that their joining was rushed without proper agreements in place.

Excusing that by saying “we’re still a brand new startup” doesn’t really fly with all due respect. I’ve worked with various startups before and launching a flawed product/company before all aspects of the business structure are finalized is just stupid. A lot of people are well paid in this business and they can’t even master the basics.

You don’t have to be a member of an alliance, some of the most successful airlines in the world are not part of any alliance, so why rush? Just for the sake of having the logo as an identifier when none of the alliance benefits are in place?