Over the past year, I have covered the ITA Airways Volare program, and how, several months after the carrier gained SkyTeam membership, it was still unknown to other alliance partners, with the added problem that no Elite Tier benefits are conferred no partner miles could be collected.
I decided to give it a try and see how airline partners react when you present the membership card on the day of departure, even though it’s not possible to add the number during online check-in or booking management.
As I mentioned in another article this week, I recently flew with China Airlines, and since this was a ticket booked in Economy Class it was the perfect opportunity to see how the carrier responded to a passenger asking for SkyTeam Elite Plus benefits with ITA Volare.
Even if they refused me any benefits, it really wouldn’t have mattered much because the airport I was flying from (Seoul Gimpo) was basically empty. I was the only person at the check-in counter and there was nobody at the Security either so anything SkyPriority related was irrelevant either way.
And as it turned out, there was really nothing to look forward to. I was surprised however that the Korean Air counter staff that did the check-in for China Airlines had an email from CI concerned Volare Elites and how to deal with such passengers:
The email and another page they had says that there isn’t a “valid agreement between China Airlines and ITA Volare yet” and that Elite Benefits are given according to cabin class.
There are some instructions about how to enter the Frequent Flyer number as “List Only” but nothing was shown on the boarding pass.
After checking in I did receive my boarding pass as well as a card for the Korean Air Lounge despite what was being said in that email.
I was asked to show my ITA card or screenshot again at the KAL Lounge as they were confused why the status wasn’t printed on the boarding pass but in the end, I was admitted to the lounge without any questions asked.
This was actually nice as the Priority Pass Lounge was closed as I mentioned in my other article but in the end, the public areas at Seoul Gimpo are totally fine to just find a seat for an hour and pay two bucks for a drink rather than getting a free coke from the fridge.
When it came time to board, there was some error that first prevented me from boarding that took several minutes to fix, likely because the check-in counter agent made a wrong entry.
Prior to landing the purser came and addressed me by name, thanking me for flying China Airlines which I found odd as this was the only greeting or “special treatment” during the entire flight. But it means that somehow the Elite Plus must have made it onto their manifest.
Other readers had previously commented that they were also able to gain access with their physical ITA Volare Card at KLM Lounges in Amsterdam and Air France Lounges at CDG. I’m not sure if that’s something that has to do with policy or if that’s at the discretion of the lounge staff.
Either way, it appears that despite not being able to enter the number into reservations and gain Elite/Elite Plus benefits as per boarding pass, one might in fact get lucky and gain entry to lounges on a case-by-case basis.
Just to recapitulate, I wrote my first article about that problem in January:
And another one In October:
I don’t think the airline and SkyTeam are doing themselves a favor by leaving this up in the air and a problem like this defeats the purpose of a loyalty program.
Nevertheless, the bottom line here is that you possibly can use your ITA Volare SkyTeam benefits on the day of departure by just presenting the card (physical or digital) and seeing what the staff does. Just pretend you don’t know about any of these problems and maybe they let it slide or – god beware – actually accept ITA sometime in the next few months as 2023 is coming closer.
Even most Italians hate Alitalia (now ITA) with a passion and why would anyone actively obtain ITA Volare status or bank miles there which you can only do when flying their own metal rather than all Sky Team carriers?
I got my status through a status match so fair enough, I didn’t actually lose anything even if the status now turns out to be relatively worthless. Maybe some airlines will end up providing me with benefits within the next 12 months on a discretionary basis, and that’s a win.
The only SkyTeam carriers I usually fly with are China Airlines and Korean Air but our readers have reported these same problems with pretty much all other carriers in the alliance as they don’t recognize ITA status. I was impressed that the check-in counter at Gimpo actually had an email about the program and instructions for the agents on how to handle it. I guess that’s the diligent nature of Korea when it comes to administration.