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MARCH 2019


Alliances act to stay relevant

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March 1st 2019

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The resignation of China Southern Airlines from SkyTeam and the questioning of the benefits of oneworld membership by Qatar Airways Group CEO, Akbar al Baker, have reignited debate about the value of airline alliances. Read More »

China Southern, 2.76% owned by oneworld’s American Airlines (AA), has close ties with oneworld’s Qantas Airways. It also has long been tipped it was heading to the oneworld fold, but oneworld CEO, Rob Gurney, told Orient Aviation last month there was no basis for the rumour. “We are not in dialogue with China Southern about oneworld. We have Cathay Pacific, which is a terrific carrier,” he said.

In the meantime, Al Baker, whose airline is a oneworld member, has used the alliance as a platform to voice his displeasure with AA and Qantas.

Generally speaking, alliances are regarded as integral to airline operations. They provide immense network reach that delivers millions of passengers a year to alliance airlines by connecting global routes that otherwise would not be possible.

However, they have failings that refreshingly they admit. To varying degrees, they have imposed inflexible barriers to entry that have kept new carriers out of their reach. They also have been slower than they should have been in utilizing digital technology to improve their offerings to members and airline customers.

In our cover story this month, alliance leaders made it clear they understood they had fallen behind in the implementation of digital technology, and that they are intent on catching up fast.

“To be frank, airline alliances have failed to keep pace with the changes of their members, the industry at large and the marketplace,” said Gurney last month. “At oneworld, we are making up for that. As we enter our third decade, we are undergoing a radical transformation to strengthen the relevance of the alliance for our member airlines and our customers.”

“To us, it was very clear that to build on the next stage of the alliance, we must focus very much on how we can leverage technology that will create greater loyalty with customers in the network we serve,” Star Alliance CEO, Jeffrey Goh, told Orient Aviation.

In the next 12 months, initiatives alliances are rolling out include the Skyscammer system that allows potential customers to search, view and book flights on all Star airlines. At oneworld, its new digital platform, Carrierconnect, provides interline viewing for customers of all oneworld airlines. All alliances are intending to offer seat selection, baggage tracking, check-in and boarding pass issue and flight status across all member airlines.

Gurney told guests at oneworld’s 20th anniversary gathering in London last month that “we are effectively relaunching oneworld”. To a degree, so too are SkyTeam and Star.

Associate editor and chief correspondent
Orient Aviation Media Group

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