Continental Airlines aiming to join Star Alliance on 27-Oct-09
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Global alliances as the airline system metamorphoses: A view to 2025
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.
Lufthansa and Etihad bedfellows - at last - but unions may make marriage a distant prospect
There can be no understating the symbolic change in mindset of Lufthansa agreeing to partner with Etihad. Lufthansa has spent the better part of a decade rallying against Gulf airlines to the press, lobbying in Europe's power corridors and seeking a range of aeropolitical measures to wind back new competitors. Etihad has been the prime target for its investment and ongoing top-ups in a range of European airlines including Lufthansa's home competitor, the failing airberlin. Despite that, it is not well known that the two have come close to a liaison before, suggesting that each sees an intrinsic logic in a relationship.
The partnership has potential to be more significant than Emirates-Qantas, Qatar-IAG or Etihad-AF-KLM. But for now it is limited in scope and caution should be exercised in extrapolating too far at this stage.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is seeking new growth platforms that sidestep the flagship business' uncompromising unions who would seemingly prefer a status quo that exists only in memory. Their support will be necessary if the partnership is to work and grow. Then Lufthansa, which has rallied the Star Alliance and JV partners against Gulf airlines, will need to explain its change of heart. For now Lufthansa will not partner on Etihad's beyond-Abu Dhabi network, a move that would embrace the fundamental business plan of Etihad and peers. That upside remains a matter for speculation.