Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kingfisher Is Best Fit For Oneworld, Alliance Says


AWIN First Feb 23 , 2010
Neelam Mathews mathews.neelam@gmail.com
Adrian Schofield adrian_schofield@aviationweek.com

The Oneworld alliance plans to add Indian carrier Kingfisher to its ranks, with the airline expected to become a full member sometime next year.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed by Kingfisher as its first step to joining Oneworld. A more specific target date for the carrier’s membership will be confirmed once Kingfisher has gained approval from India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation, according to the alliance.

Oneworld has made no secret of the fact that it wanted to add an airline in India. Its rival Star Alliance is in the process of adding Air India, and is also moving closer to adding Jet Airways. Oneworld has been considering its options in India for some time, “and it became clear that Kingfisher was the best fit,” an alliance spokesman told AviationWeek.

The alliance narrowed its focus on Kingfisher late last year, which led to the recent signing of the MOU. The announcement was timed to follow the application to Indian regulatory authorities.

Kingfisher has an extensive network in India, with a 21% share of the domestic market. The carrier claims to carry the most domestic passengers, with the highest number of daily departures.

However, the carrier has relatively few international routes, so there is little overlap with the networks of the other Oneworld airlines. It does have a couple of London routes that British Airways also shares, and Hong Kong routes that are also served by Cathay Pacific.

British Airways will act as Kingfisher’s sponsor during the joining process. BA is also believed to be in talks with Kingfisher regarding a code-share agreement. “We look forward to welcoming Kingfisher into Oneworld as India is a key market for us, said a BA spokesperson. Regarding the code share, however, the carrier would only say that “we talk to a variety of airlines and don’t comment on rumor and speculation.”

Kingfisher currently does not code share with any Oneworld members. Code-share deals will be negotiated with other partners on a bilateral basis.

“Becoming part of Oneworld would be one of our most significant steps so far … It will also strengthen us financially, through revenues from passengers transferring to our network from our Oneworld partners and the cost reduction opportunities the alliance offers,” says Kingfisher Chairman and Chief Executive Vijay Mallya.

IT integration between the merged Air India and Indian Airlines which has delayed Air India joining Star, will not be an issue for Kingfisher.

Nor will integration with the rest of the members. According to the Oneworld spokesman. “Eight of our airlines are customers of Amadeus. We also have member airlines that use Sabre (such as Kingfisher) and SITA, with American moving to the new HP Jetstream platform.IT suppliers these days are well versed on the needs of alliance membership, and Oneworld member airlines are used to bringing on board new partners on differing platforms. So we don’t see any issues here.”

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