In contrast to full membership, the more regional scope of a “connecting partner” calls for commercial ties with a minimum of just three member carriers.
Star Alliance has announced plans for THAI Smile Airways, regional airline and wholly owned subsidiary of Thai Airways, to become the next “connecting partner” in its global network. Thai Airways is already a full member of the alliance.
Meeting on the sidelines of the 75th IATA Annual General Meeting in Seoul, the board of Star Alliance member chief executives approved the airline’s application to become part of the connecting partner model, which was established by the alliance in June 2016 to complement its membership model.
In contrast to full membership, which requires the building of commercial ties with all other full members, the more regional scope of a connecting partner calls for commercial relationships with a minimum of three carriers only.
Customers travelling on an itinerary that includes a transfer between a Star member airline and a connecting partner will be offered the usual alliance benefits such as passenger and baggage through check-in.
In addition, customers who have achieved Star Alliance Gold Status in their frequent flyer program will receive premium customer benefits.
Once all entry requirements are fulfilled, expected by the end of this year, THAI Smile Airways will be the second connecting partner, joining Juneyao Airlines which entered in 2017.
Star Alliance says that connecting partners allow it to close network gaps that may exist on a regional basis. THAI Smile will add 11 new destinations to the alliance network, which already comprises over 1,300 airports in 194 countries.
The Bangkok-based airline has begun to implement the necessary technology and commercial links that will allow it to begin serving Star connecting passengers in 2020. From then on, it will be offering privileges to qualifying Gold Status passengers travelling on connecting itineraries, including Priority Check-in, Thai Smile Lounge Access and Priority Baggage Delivery.