airberlin joins oneworld alliance, but its full potential will not be immediately realised


The oneworld alliance on 20-Mar-2012 is welcoming airberlin as its 11th member, but the carrier's full potential will not be immediately realised.

airberlin's advantage is a continental European base, which oneworld lacks and barely had prior to the Feb-2012 collapse of Hungary's Malev. But the hub can only be utilised if oneworld carriers serve it, and so far they have been coy about adding services, preferring instead the country's –  and one of the world's – leading financial centres, Frankfurt, much to the disappointment of airberlin.

From airberlin's accession, oneworld will gain market share, but not only are SkyTeam and Star Alliance expanding as well, they are adding members in key growth markets. airberlin this week brings 38 new destinations to oneworld's network, although they are primarily leisure points and not the corporate destinations that bolster airline yields. The airline has evolved, with additional costs, from a low-cost carrier to a hybrid one targeting the corporate sector, but has yet to see a yield uptick.

Stronger yields will come from a codeshare arrangement with American Airlines that gives airberlin wider access in its largest long-haul market, the US. Its second largest long-haul market is Abu Dhabi, the home of new partner Etihad Airways. That deal will also bring higher yields but threatens British Airways, which ironically sponsored airberlin's accession to oneworld.

Despite national, city and soon airport reunification, airberlin will be divided. To the west, a familiar course in the mature European and trans-Atlantic market guided by global alliances. To the east, fledgling opportunities to be realised in partnership with a new type of carrier – the Middle East network one – that others are trying to understand, if not combat. One difference from history is that airberlin will do well to straddle both sides, but only as long as neither side brings contentions to the forefront. The oneworld honeymoon may be short.

New destinations airberlin will open to oneworld alliance

Germany Europe Africa Asia Pacific Latin America Middle East North America


Cologne Bonn





Leipzig Halle





Westerland Sylt



Bari Palese

Brindisi Casale




Linz Blue Danube



Olbia Costa Smeralda



Ponta Delgada (Azores)


Agadir Al Massira

Djerba Zarsis

Enfidha Zine El Abidine Ben Ali



Marsa Alam


Sharm el-Sheikh


Varadero Juan Gualberto Gomez

Erbil International Airport


Total: 12

Total: 15

Total: 9

Total: 0 Total: 1 Total: 1 Total: 0

airberlin serves 162 destinations in 40 countries. Seasonal services, offered primarily during the European summer, will increase the number of new destinations to oneworld beyond the 38 this week. airberlin will introduce the countries of Iceland and Iraq to oneworld's network. Iraq bas has proven to be a lucrative and high yielding market for carriers that serve it.

Where they stand: oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance

Star Alliance for some years has been the largest alliance by seat share, gaining members in growing markets of Africa, China and Southeast Asia. Most recently it added Ethiopian Airlines and announced Taiwan's EVA Airways would join. SkyTeam has made inroads, particularly in China, where it has China Eastern, China Southern and soon Xiamen Airlines. oneworld, much to the pain of IAG CEO Willie Walsh, has no mainland Chinese member, a situation Mr Walsh intends to change. oneworld will receive a boost in Asia later this year with the addition of Malaysia Airlines.

See related articles:

Star in the near future will likely lose three members, all to oneworld: bmi, which is being absorbed by British Airways/IAG; TAP, which will likely be privatised and acquired by IAG too; and TAM, which will likely join LAN in oneworld.

See related article: oneworld favoured with more at stake than Star in LAN-TAM alliance decision

airberlin's addition to oneworld, as well as confirmation of pending members like EVA to Star and Xiamen to SkyTeam (and not including bmi, TAP and TAM transfers) will see oneworld grow its seat share – but so too will Star and, most significantly, SkyTeam. Star will remain the largest alliance followed by SkyTeam, narrowing the gap. But the separation between SkyTeam and third-place oneworld will grow. After the confirmed future members join, more than half of the world's global airline seat capacity will for the first time be held by the three global alliances.

  • For news, analysis, current and future membership lists as well as seat share predictor based on alliance changes, see CAPA's new profile on global alliances

Global total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

airberlin's oneworld joining sees oneworld become second-largest alliance in Germany

oneworld will move up a ranking in Germany to be the number two largest alliance, behind Star Alliance, which accounts for just over half of all seats in the country. airberlin's addition triples the number of points oneworld reaches in Germany to 25.

Germany total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

airberlin's joining creates largest capacity change for oneworld in Europe

In continental markets, airberlin's joining of oneworld will bring the largest change in Europe, where airberlin is the eighth largest global carrier. For intra-European traffic airberlin is the seventh largest carrier – ahead of British Airways.

Top 10 airlines for flights to/from Europe (ranked on seats): 19-Mar-2012 to 25-Mar-2012

Rank Airline Total seats
1 LH Lufthansa 1,762,254
2 FR Ryanair 1,553,202
3 AF Air France 1,133,750
4 U2 easyJet 1,018,845
5 BA British Airways 848,611
6 TK Turkish Airlines 845,200
7 SK SAS 685,091
8 AB airberlin 654,941
9 IB Iberia 549,554
10 KL KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 530,878

Top 10 airlines for intra-European flights (ranked on seats): 19-Mar-2012 to 25-Mar-2012

Rank Airline Total seats
1 FR Ryanair 1,514,268
2 LH Lufthansa 1,422,771
3 U2 easyJet 975,483
4 AF Air France 822,572
5 SK SAS 656,435
6 TK Turkish Airlines 631,740
7 AB airberlin 597,555
8 BA British Airways 551,338
9 IB Iberia 452,686
10 DY Norwegian Air Shuttle 436,946

Europe total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

North America is airberlin's largest long-haul market and will see further US additions later this year with new services, including to Los Angeles, but these services introduce only a small amount of capacity relative to the large North American market and show no noticeable change for alliance share.

See related article: airberlin prepares to drop Bangkok in order to boost Middle East, Africa and US services

North America total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

airberlin has no capacity deployed to Latin America. Although as part of Etihad taking a stake in airberlin the latter switched its services from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and intends to significantly increase its Middle East capacity, it is still small compared to the size of the market and thus there is no noticeable change.

airberlin has a smaller amount of capacity deployed to Africa, but the continent's smaller market size see oneworld gain noticeable market share, although by less than a percentage point. (No other pending oneworld members serve Africa. The only other pending oneworld member, Malaysia Airlines, withdrew its South African capacity.)

Africa total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

airberlin will soon end direct Bangkok and Phuket services from Germany and instead serve Bangkok via a codeshare with Etihad and Phuket from Abu Dhabi. While Phuket capacity will be increased, once again the overall contribution is negligible compared to the market's size. oneworld's growth in Asia Pacific will be driven by Malaysia Airlines joining oneworld at the end of 2012.

Asia Pacific total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

airberlin makes oneworld formidable challenger to Star in Germany

Overnight airberlin will bring oneworld out of third place by seat share in Frankfurt and Dusseldorf, making oneworld the second largest alliance in those two cities. Dusseldorf is airberlin's second largest origin or destination of seats while Frankfurt is not in airberlin's top 10. airberlin's largest base is its namesake city, and there will be one of the few Germany cities where oneworld will account for more capacity than Star Alliance.

Lufthansa has long neglected Berlin but is now planning a rapid increase to maintain market share.

See related article: Lufthansa responds to Air Berlin at new Berlin airport, but success far from guaranteed

Berlin Tegel Airport total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

Dusseldorf International Airport total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

Frankfurt International total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

Spanish base gives oneworld boost in Spain, and Palma in particular

airberlin operates a base at Spain's holiday island of Palma de Mallorca, and airberlin's addition in oneworld will see the alliance significantly increase its seat share in Spain and of course Palma.

Spain total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

Palma de Mallorca Airport total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

Niki, part of airberlin, joins oneworld as affiliate member, boosting presence in Austria

airberlin owns Austrian LCC/hybrid carrier Niki, which has become a oneworld affiliate member, double the alliance's presence in Austria to six airports.

Austria total capacity (seats) share (%) by alliance

Before After

Leisure orientation of airberlin adds market share, but not corporate traffic, to oneworld

Germany is only one of a handful of countries that see service from every oneworld member, and while airberlin will give oneworld market share and the potential for continental European traffic, that will only be if more carriers serve Berlin; most are at Frankfurt. airberlin's appeal is also limited as its capacity is heavily weighed towards leisure traffic. Some of oneworld's largest gains are in leisure points like Palma and Berlin, despite the Berlin Government trying to increase its corporate appeal. The price-sensitivity orientation of the leisure market makes it less likely passengers will give patronage to a oneworld carrier simply as it is their preferred alliance on which to earn frequent flyer miles. This will be especially so as airberlin's costs creep up and LCC competitors easyJet and Ryanair plan capacity increases.

Yet at the same time, airberlin's leisure routes could increase opportunities for oneworld passengers to redeem miles on leisure points. Elsewhere, airberlin does offer strong potential, first as another potential (after Iberia's Madrid and Barcelona) to avoid the London Heathrow fortress if transferring in Europe. Second is airberlin's emerging position in the nascent Eastern European market. The carrier is expected to increase capacity in Eastern Europe, which if calculated correctly could give oneworld a significant presence in that emerging market. With the exception of Latin America, assuming TAM joins LAN in oneworld, a leading position in emerging markets has not been oneworld's success. With approximately half of global capacity still unaligned and growth continuing in new markets, oneworld's fight may be difficult, but not over.

Want More Analysis Like This?

CAPA Membership provides access to all news and analysis on the site, along with access to many areas of our comprehensive databases and toolsets.
Find Out More