Air Transport World

Global challenger.

Revenue-hungry Star Alliance powers ahead in the intensifying duel of airline partnerships

The festive atmosphere at the gala event recognizing the long-expected addition of All Nippon Airways to the Star Alliance was the happy face of success in the midst of the continuing wrestling match of alliance-building. Much serious maneuvering remains as the world's airlines position themselves and their selected partnerships for maximum advantage.

An indicator of this is the bitter judicial/financial onslaught by United Airlines parent UAL Corp. and Deutsche Lufthansa AG--core Star partners--to scuttle the bid by Onex Corp. and American Airlines parent AMR Corp. to acquire Star founding member Air Canada and troubled Canadian Airlines and merge them under the oneworld umbrella.

Major rival alliances are in differing phases of development. They include Star; oneworld, led by American and British Airways; the Northwest/KLM/Alitalia grouping that likely will incorporate Continental Airlines and relaunch as Wings, possibly with addition of Malaysia Airlines; and the Delta Air Lines/Air France combination that is just beginning to enlist second-level partners with the recruitment of Aeromexico.

The Pacific region's largest carrier, unaligned Japan Airlines, officially claims to favor its extensive web of bilateral partnerships over a global alliance. However, President Isao Kaneko reiterated at a press conference in October that JAL is "studying the possibility of joining a multilateral alliance." It already codeshares with oneworld members BA, Cathay Pacific and American, and has terminated codesharing on flights operated by Air France.

United's chairman and CEO, James E. Goodwin, expressed his confidence in Star here: "Star led the pack of the alliances and. . . has a significant lead in the industry." After the May induction in Sydney of Ansett and Air New Zealand, the grouping broadened its orbit with the formal entry of ANA Oct. …

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