The big news in the aviation world last month was that IAG, the parent company of British Airways, announced the acquisition of Air Europa for €1bn.
Air Europa is the 3rd biggest airline in Spain. The acquisition, according to IAG, will turn Madrid into a genuine ‘5th European hub’ city alongside London, Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam.
Importantly, IAG will become the largest airline group flying between Europe and the Caribbean and Europe and Latin America.
There is a real risk that the competition authorities block the deal, however. IAG will operate 73% of all domestic flights in Spain if there are no divestments, and IAG may consider any proposed divestments too high a price to pay.
What has this got to do with earning Avios from SkyTeam flights?
I’m glad you asked!
IAG has confirmed that Air Europa will be leaving SkyTeam and adopting Avios if the deal succeeds.
Air Europa currently has its own frequent flyer scheme called SUMA. You can find full details on the Air Europa website here.
As a member of SkyTeam, you can currently credit miles from any SkyTeam flight to Air Europa SUMA – Delta, Air France, KLM, Vietnam, Aeroflot, Korean etc.
If you do not usually collect SkyTeam miles but find yourself on a SkyTeam flight, there is an interesting opportunity here.
If you credit your SkyTeam activity to Air Europa SUMA, it is virtually certain that your SUMA miles will be converted into Avios if the sale of the airline to IAG goes through.
Is this risk-free?
There is a high chance that IAG abandons the deal if the competition authorities demand excessive divestments. This deal increases the size of Iberia by 50%, assuming you treat Air Europa and Iberia as one airline.
Eight airlines control 99.6% of Spanish domestic flights, according to CAPA. Unfortunately for regulators, IAG will now own the three biggest, running a total of 73% of all domestic flights:
- Vueling – 32%
- Iberia – 26%
- Air Europa – 15%
Ryanair comes joint third, also with 15%. You then drop to BinterCanarias with 9%, which mainly operates in and to the Canary Islands.
If you credit SkyTeam flights to Air Europa and IAG ends up abandoning its bid for Air Europa, you will be stuck with some SUMA miles.
This isn’t the end of the world, of course. After all, you would otherwise have been stuck with some Delta, Air France, Korean etc miles. It is harder to top up Air Europa SUMA miles to the level required for a flight redemption, however, as they have fewer partners – you can’t transfer UK Amex Membership Rewards points, for example.
Air Europa SUMA miles have a fairly generous expiry policy so you should be safe even if the move to Avios takes a couple of years. You only need some piece of ‘activity’ on your account every 18 months to keep them alive, which could be partner earning. I am guessing that a small ‘buy miles’ transaction would be enough. (EDIT: comments below suggest this may not count as activity)
If you have any SkyTeam flights coming up then this is a strategy worth thinking about if your main focus is Avios.
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