Changing Alliances

Changing Alliances 2016-01-31T19:41:55-08:00

Dear Joel,

I’ve heard that South African Airways is going to join the Star Alliance, possibly this summer. Since I’m planning a trip to South Africa for October, how soon would a switch in alliances lead to a switch in gateways? For example, as a Star Alliance partner, wouldn’t SAA drop its Delta codeshare and move to a United hub, such as Washington, DC? I’d like the Delta miles, but don’t want to buy and risk them not being accruable because of a switch in allegiance.

What do you think?


Answered by The Penny Pincher

Hi Robert,

I enjoyed your question—it shows that you’re strategically thinking ahead. Indeed there have been rumors that South African Airways (SAA) might join The Star Alliance program. However, nothing officially is being said by SAA, Star Alliance, or Delta.

If SAA does join The Star Alliance program and consequently severs ties with Delta Air Lines, there should be a grace period where currently booked tickets are stilled honored and accrue Delta Sky Miles (if the ticket is purchased as a Delta flight). This was the case when Delta and Swiss Air Lines (SA) parted ways. Travelers with a Delta Air Lines ticket on a SA flight did not have any problems using their tickets and accruing Delta Sky Miles. For travelers whose departing cities changed due to SA moving hub cities, Delta arranged passage to the new departing city without cost to the passenger.

If you’re not comfortable purchasing your Delta ticket on a SAA flight you can use Delta’s Sky Team partner, Air France—flying through Paris. One advantage with Air France is that you can upgrade your North America-Europe leg of the flight. You also will probably stand a good chance of garnering a free upgrade from Paris to South Africa. As always, getting upgraded, particularly on long flights, is an important consideration. However, currently the Air France flight is priced about $400 more than the SAA flight through Atlanta.

Since October is not that far away—and as of today, there has not been any official announcement of any program changes to the Delta-SAA alliance—I think that you should be O.K. flying SAA.

Good luck and have a great flight,


edited answer