HONG KONG (XFNews-ASIA) - China Southern Airlines Co Ltd can expect a "significant" increase in its China inbound passenger traffic when its membership to SkyTeam Alliance takes effect in the second half of 2007, a Northwest Airlines official told XFN-Asia.
Northwest is a member of the 10-member SkyTeam Alliance, which includes among others Air France-KLM and Korean Air.
China Southern announced today that it has signed the official Global Airline Alliance Adherence Agreement, a key stage in its plans to join the SkyTeam Alliance.
Following the signing, it expects the integration of its IT and frequent flyer programs to be completed and membership granted into SkyTeam in the second half of 2007, the Chinese carrier said.
Pieper and Air France-KLM officials attended ceremonies in Guangzhou today to mark China Southern's agreement for membership of SkyTeam.
Paul Gregorowitsch, executive vice president for commercial services at Air France-KLM Group, said estimating the increase in China Southern's passenger numbers as a result of its membership to SkyTeam is difficult.
"However, with 373 mln passengers now travelling through the SkyTeam alliance, we are confident that China Southern will benefit in a significant way as members cooperate in areas, including code sharing, e-ticketing and frequent flyer programs," he told XFN-Asia over the telephone from Guangzhou.
Responding to questions on Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific's positioning in the China market vis-a-viz other foreign airlines, Pieper said Cathay's imminent acquisition of Hong Kong Dragon Airlines (Dragonair) will strengthen their combined operations on the mainland.
"Cathay is obviously seeking a stronger position in the China market through their investment in Dragonair. However, we'd like to think that our membership to SkyTeam somehow offsets whatever advantages that Cathay will reap from this acquisition," he said.