Air Transport World

Alliance paradox.

Alliances are invaluable but impermanent is the message at ATW/Global Aviation Associates 'Defining Global Networks' conference

The importance of belonging to a global alliance, despite the commercial and regulatory hurdles to be overcome, was an oft-. heard theme at last February's Commercial Aviation-Defining Global Networks conference, which was co-sponsored by Air Transport World and Global Aviation Associates (see also article, p. 26). But speakers also took the view that alliances are only one element of a successful corporate strategy, and none suggested that the partnerships of today will be here tomorrow.

The transitory nature of alliances is a fact of life, implicit in every announcement of a new teaming. This was made clear in a recent report by Goldman Sachs, which noted that, "in 1997 alone, 121 new alliances were formed but 102 were dissolved."

The mating dance involving Air France on the one hand and Continental and Delta Air Lines on the other provides a perfect illustration. In fact, Delta President and CEO Leo Muffin set the tone for the 2-day event (Feb. 18-19) with a keynote speech during which he called airline alliances "an inevitable but not hazard-free" next step in the evolution of the industry, while stating that for Delta, at least, they are "not critical," since the importance of its southeastern U.S. base "overwhelms" anything that happens elsewhere.

Declaring that Delta is "extraordinarily committed to the Atlantic Excellence Alliance," he still pointed out that "it just isn't big enough" and "we want to have a unique brand identity and Atlantic Excellence is not it." In the best of all worlds, Mullin said, Delta could have it all: The Atlantic Excellence Alliance and Air France. …

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