Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jet Airways Mulls Joining SkyTeam, As Alliance Options Run Out

Aviation Daily Oct 27 , 2010 , p. 11
Neelam Mathews

Just as Air India delays its entry into the Star Alliance, Jet Airways may be viewing joining SkyTeam.

The Star Alliance has been anxious to add another Indian carrier to its portfolio, says India’s market size could absorb two carriers and recently met with Jet Airways. Star’s interest in Jet Airways has brought a cold-shoulder response from India’s civil aviation ministry, which made it clear that Air India is to be the first admitted to Star. Presumably, that will ensure it first-mover advantage.

Air India, however, was forced to delay its entry following integration issues related to the merger with Indian Airlines. It may join Star in the summer of 2011 instead of spring 2011.

“We respect the ministry’s decision and have been in conversation with them,” Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht told AVIATION WEEK recently.

Meanwhile, the signs may already be there as options run out for Jet with Kingfisher Airlines having announced its intention to join Oneworld.

Jet has announced daily direct services between Milan Malpensa Airport and New Delhi starting Dec. 5, and recently exchanged a memorandum of understanding to confirm its intention to operate code-sharing flights with SkyTeam member Alitalia, starting with its winter schedule.

Milan is strategically located at the heart of Central Europe, and Jet says it is appealing because of its connectivity to several Italian cities and other European destinations, such as Paris, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Helsinki, Lisbon, Madrid, Zurich, Vienna, Belgrade and Budapest in conjunction with its interline partners.
Jet has also switched its lounge to the SkyTeam facility from Etihad’s lounge, which opened in June last year. Premium passengers with Jet Airways now use the SkyTeam lounge at London Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

“India and Italy share strong ties, ranging across leisure and business tourism and commercial trade. We will be able to offer our customers a wider access to Italy’s top destinations, with Italy’s premium airline,”  Naresh Goyal, Jet Airways’ chairman, said.

“The MOU with Jet Airways is a further step in Alitalia’s strategy of growing on the global marketplace, and follows the key agreements that Alitalia already signed with Aeroflot, Etihad and Vietnam Airlines,” Roberto Colaninno, Alitalia’s chairman said. Two of these are SkyTeam members (Aeroflot and Vietnam Airlines).

While Jet Airways has a code-sharing agreement with Star Alliance member Brussels Airlines for European routes at its Brussels hub, if Jet were to join SkyTeam, it would mean the end of the partnership and a change of hub to France or Italy.

Jet Airways currently has frequent flyer partnership agreements with 22 international airlines that include Star and SkyTeam members. Its code shares to the U.S are with United Airlines, a Star member, and Delta, a SkyTeam member.

“There are major cost benefits in joining an airline alliance particularly when carriers are limping back. The time is right for Jet to join an alliance. It might be difficult to be on the same platform as Air India, which, being a government carrier, is not used to sharing the spoils,” says an airline official on grounds of anonymity.

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