Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garuda Helps SkyTeam Fill Its ‘White Spots’


Garuda Indonesia expects to become SkyTeam’s 20th member in March. (Photo: Airbus)
October 14, 2013, 1:20 PM
SkyTeam reports solid progress in Garuda Indonesia’s preparations to join the alliance in March next year, when it expects the Jakarta-based airline to become the only Indonesian carrier affiliated with a major international grouping. Garuda’s enrollment would make it the 20th SkyTeam member and the tenth from Asia.
“The integration is going on well and Garuda has worked hard to meet the membership criteria required to join the alliance, which includes its new ITplatform—Amadeus,” SkyTeam managing director Michael Wisbrun told AIN. “Garuda’s membership will give SkyTeam a unique advantage…[offering] access to Southeast Asia’s largest economy.”
While SkyTeam continues to extend its global reach, Brazil and India remain two “white spots,” according to Wisbrun. “However, we see positive developments in Brazil,” he said. “Bilateral ties exist between individual member airlines and low-cost airline GOL, providing access to more than 60 destinations in this market. We are monitoring developments in India, with many fundamental changes witnessed lately.”
China, meanwhile, already represents one of SkyTeam’s most important markets, and forecasts call for business travel spending in that country to grow by more than 15 percent and overtake the U.S. by 2015. SkyTeam’s four China-based carriers account for more than a quarter of all the alliance’s daily departures.
Though the alliance has not yet ventured into the arena of joint purchasing as has its Star Alliance competitor, its SkyPriority red carpet treatment for select customers, including priority check-in and baggage drop-off and boarding, now covers nearly 1,000 airports. SkyTeam, which opened a co-branded lounge in Istanbul recently, plans to open similar facilities in Sydney and Beijing next year. It expects the new lounges to reduce combined costs by approximately 10 percent at those airports, an official in Paris told AIN recently.
Recognizing the need for bilateral agreements between alliance partners and non-affiliated carriers, Wisbrun conceded SkyTeam can’t address all the needs of every member, however. “The purpose of any airline alliance is to augment cooperation between its members,” he said. “Cooperation outside the alliance will be necessary to address specific gaps, which the alliance isn’t best positioned to address.” Nevertheless, SkyTeam has seen the number of available seat-miles resulting from new code-share deals grow 15 percent since the winter of 2012-2013, said Wisbrun, while the same measure of partnerships with non-aligned carriers fell 7 percent.

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