See below the list of current and pending members of the Alliances.
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Star Alliance's connecting partner model is evolving beyond a proposition for low cost airlines. In Oct-2016 Star disclosed its intention to add Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines. Although Juneyao is full service, the semantics of full service versus low cost have proven irrelevant: the core concept of Star's connecting partner platform is to secure transfer options in key markets. The Star benefits for a connecting partner are only realised when connecting on the same itinerary to a Star member. Unlike the situation with full membership, Star benefits are not offered on a connecting partner when the itinerary is only point-to-point.
Juneyao gives Star a partner in China's financial hub and replaces Star's former Shanghai partner, Shanghai Airlines, which left when it merged with SkyTeam's China Eastern. Juneyao is the second announced member after the South African Airways LCC Mango, but Juneyao will be implemented first in 2Q2017. As Juneyao grows and plans intercontinental 787 flights, the airline may transition to a full member.
The international aviation world will look very different in a decade. The big US airlines are re-emerging from their shells as prosperity (and slow growth in their mature domestic market) prompts them to go forth internationally.
China is inevitably and remorselessly stamping its shape on global markets; the Gulf carriers continue to expand and attract the ire of those who prefer the status quo; and low cost carriers proliferate and metamorphose.
And all this while, sadly, airlines look like remaining confined to the 1940s’ archaic ownership and control rules. Within this confinement, they continue to struggle to find new ways of expanding their geography – and, in some cases, of restricting others’. International markets have another drawback. They tend to be much more competitive, in diverse ways, than nationally protected domestic markets.
Garuda Indonesia is seeking to expand its partnership with Delta Air Lines ahead of launching flights to the US. Garuda needs a stronger relationship with Delta and will need to reconsider plans for its own US flights if the right partnerships are not in place.
Expanded partnerships are crucial for Garuda as it attempts to improve its position in the international market. Garuda has been working on boosting ties with several SkyTeam members, resulting in a new codeshare with Aeromexico and an enhanced partnership with KLM.
Garuda has also been pursuing ambitious and strategic expansion of its own long haul network. However this expansion has been highly unprofitable, and in several markets Garuda would be better off relying on partners.
British Airways-Qatar Airways form Europe's first Gulf airline JV, showing some oneworld flexibility
British Airways and Qatar Airways are to commence a revenue-sharing joint venture from 30-Oct-2016. Even before Qatar Airways took 20% of the equity of BA parent group IAG, the JV was expected – and perhaps due earlier. The agreement includes the UK, continental Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa – essentially all regions but the Americas. Some specifics and regulatory matters are to be worked through, and Iberia is excluded but presumably will be added.
oneworld has always been a flexible congregation of bilateral relationships, but nowhere has this been better exemplified than with Qatar Airways' membership of oneworld and eg Qantas' deep partnership with Emirates. The BA-QR JV is the first between a European airline and a Gulf airline. Compared to AF-KLM and Lufthansa, BA/IAG have been more open towards Gulf airlines, a result of management but also pragmatism: BA's hub at London Heathrow is capacity constrained and BA typically carries a majority of O&D passengers.
On 8-Sep-2016 LOT Polish Airlines announced its "2020 profitable growth strategy". This involves a goal to achieve "sustainable viability", after a restructuring programme which returned LOT to operating profit in 2014 after six loss-making years. Its privatisation may even be back on the agenda.
LOT currently ranks behind LCCs Ryanair and Wizz Air by share of traffic in Poland, which offers superior traffic growth potential versus Europe as a whole. The airline aims to increase passenger numbers from 4.3 million in 2015 to 10 million in 2020, growing its fleet from 43 to 70 aircraft. LOT's expansion will focus on long haul, particularly North America and Asia, where it currently has only five routes and where competition is considerably lower than on short/medium haul. Initial plans include the launch of Warsaw-Seoul this winter and a return to Warsaw-New York Newark next summer.
According to data from LOT, its restructuring has left it with a fairly efficient cost base by legacy airline standards and this will be important in competing with LCCs (but there is still a cost gap with LCCs). LOT's growth will focus on long haul but will need short-haul European feed – and partnerships. Although LOT no longer appears to be considering leaving the Star Alliance, it remains excluded from American and Asian JVs. Further, those JVs preclude members from working with LOT. Partnership growth will be as critical as it will be challenging.
The Western Europe-North East Asia corridor has gained attention as the centrepiece of Finnair's expansion strategy. But just over 500 miles away in Moscow Aeroflot is quietly pursuing a role carrying transfer traffic between the regions. Although Aeroflot's spread of Asian destinations is not as extensive as Finnair's or those of the Gulf airlines, Aeroflot has favourable geography and lower costs. It is not subject to Russian overflight rights and associated costs. Finnair carries the tenth largest number of O&D passengers between Western Europe and Northeast Asia, while Aeroflot is 13th. After Emirates, Aeroflot is the second largest airline transporting passengers between the regions, but is based in neither.
A member of SkyTeam, Aeroflot is not part of the joint ventures (trans-Atlantic and Europe-Asia) that define the alliance's inner circle. Its long haul transfer strategy is focused on Western Europe-Asia. This strategy allows it some independence from SkyTeam but may also aggravate the alliance's established members, much the way that Turkish has irked Lufthansa and United. Aeroflot's connecting traffic, although still an overall small proportion of its international traffic, has grown faster than local traffic.