Where do the world’s three airline alliances go next?
The world’s three airline alliances have been busy enlisting new members, particularly in fast-emerging markets. SkyTeam has caught up with the others in signing two of China’s “big three” airlines, China Eastern and China Southern. Star Alliance, still the biggest, signed up the third, Air China. This has left oneworld behind in China, but it will soon welcome India’s Kingfisher as a new member. The most important battle now is to sign up LATAM, a huge carrier that will dominate South America, due to be created in 2012 with the merger of Brazil’s TAM (now a Star member) and Chile’s LAN (oneworld). LATAM will have to choose between these alliances.
Few other big airlines are left to be courted. Star and SkyTeam both want Jet Airways. The Gulf’s three “superconnectors”, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, do not appear to need allies, but Virgin Atlantic is looking increasingly lonely.
[pictured: Shenzhen Airlines, China’s fourth biggest airline, due to join Star Alliance by the end of 2012]