Whine Wednesday: ITA Airways Volare SkyTeam Status Still Not Recognized By Other Alliance Carriers One Year On
In January and April, I wrote about ITA Airways’ (Alitalia clone) new frequent flyer program Volare that several months after the carrier gained SkyTeam membership was still unknown to other alliance partners and therefore no Elite Tier benefits are conferred and no miles could be collected.
Unfortunately, now – six months later and despite promises by ITA management – nothing has changed and the Volare number still can’t be entered with most (if not all) SkyTeam partners.
The entire program and airline have pretty much become a running gag that can’t be taken seriously considering how it’s being run and how the Frequent Flyer Program is administered.
ITA is basically the Phoenix risen from the ashes of Alitalia as the airline finally disappeared after decades of burning hundreds of millions in both taxpayer and investor money.
The carrier even offers a rather generous status match to a whole range of other programs, but as the matched members are now trying to apply for their benefits at certain SkyTeam partners during check-in they are met with blank stares – nobody knows this airline or the program!
Here is my initial article about this issue from late January:
The situation of an official alliance partner that prints SkyTeam logos on their membership cards and issues Elite Status, yet nobody knows about them or recognized the airline code to be entered is more than bizarre, so I started to follow up with some of the parties involved.
First, I contacted Delta Airlines’ Press Liasion and asked them about this, and they then involved someone from ITA and SkyTeam as well.
Sky Team responded:
Thanks for your patience. Here is the information that we’ve got from ITA and SkyTeam’s own Loyalty team regarding the Volare program.
- Volare is no longer work in progress, The program was launched and activated earlier this year. The program launched in January but became available only in March.
- The program while up and running still needs to be integrated with SkyTeam and member airlines and this activity has only started in march’22. So this is work in progress.
- Recognition of SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus by ITA Airways started in December 2021.
- Recognition of Volare Elite and Elite Plus by SkyTeam members will be progressively rolled out starting Q2 2022
- Reciprocal earn and burn/redemption with ITA will be progressively launched starting H2 of this year.
As I understand it (since there is no timeline for any partner integration) the program is currently not a decent choice for anyone except for those customers who exclusively fly ITA but no other “partner” carriers. I also communicated this to SkyTeam and ITA.
ITA itself sent this statement in April:
What you say is correct. As you know our company is a ‘start-up’ which began operations approximately five months ago. Given this special status, in agreement with the team at SkyTeam it was decided to develop the different contents of the program step by step until the achievement of a full system integration with Sky Team and SkyTeam members and integration of services. This comprises the different services offered as reciprocal earning and redemption of points between ITA Airways and partner airlines’ flights, lounges access, recognition for Elite and Elite Plus Volare customers, and other alliance benefits.
Absolutely ridiculous how the carrier portrays itself as a “startup”, yet they can apparently join SkyTeam willy-nilly as the Alitalia clone even though the carrier provides nothing similar in terms of network let alone FFP options.
Which customer is going to select a frequent flyer program with an uncertain program structure and start collecting miles there? Oh wait, you can barely collect any miles with other carriers since they won’t accept your number.
This is the first time in my 15+ years in the loyalty game I see a frequent flyer program being initiated that isn’t recognized by the alliance partners, yet is allowed to bear the alliance logo and even confers status tiers.
Here are my two attempts from today to enter it with China Airlines and Korean Air:
ITA is nowhere to be seen on any of their lists close to a year when ITA Volare started to print the SkyTeam logo on their membership cards.
It would have probably been wise to shelve the joining date until all agreements between carriers have been signed and their SkyTeam membership is actually recognized. Unless of course, this is all intentional, in which case SkyTeam should kick them out immediately.
ITA Airways Volare program has been live for almost a year now, but from what it looks like at the moment, there is still an acceptance issue with many (most) carriers who haven’t heard of the airline despite having been admitted to SkyTeam. From the statements of the parties involved that are privy to internal details, it seems like their membership was rushed through without appropriate agreements in place.
At this point, the lack of reciprocal tier benefit and lack of mileage collection ability is definitely deliberate and not just an accident that can be excused with the company being new. It’s absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable that SkyTeam allows this to go on.