Will 2010 turn into a triumphal year in Asia for Oneworld? After retaining successfully Japan Airlines within Oneworld, the alliance driven by American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific announced two weeks ago that Kingfisher Airlines started all procedures to join. India’s largest domestic carrier with 10.9 million passengers and a network of roughly 60 destinations within the Subcontinent should become a member by mid 2011 as it takes 18 months to complete all the various technical stages for integration. But now, all eyes are turning once more to China Eastern Airlines, one of the most attractive partners to win. The Shanghai-based carrier is the last of China’s three air giants to remain outside an alliance. With over 36 million passengers a year and 14.5 million seats offered on average every month, China Eastern is a much coveted target. According to the Dallas Business Journal from February 28, AMR Corp., American Airlines parent company, has announced to held talks with the Chinese carrier. Oneworld has looked at China Eastern for at least three years and hold already talks with the Shanghai carrier many times. It seems that Oneworld has also discussed membership with Hainan Airlines, another important Chinese carrier.
Meanwhile, the suspense remains. Speaking to Reuters news agency on February 25, a China Eastern Airlines senior company executive indicated to be in talks with the three global alliances –Oneworld, Skyteam and Star Alliance-. But the China Eastern executive said the carrier did not have a preferred partner so far.
“We are holding parallel discussions with all three groups currently. We hope to join one of them eventually but we don’t know which one yet,” said the executive to Reuters. China Eastern has already a foot into Star Alliance following its merger with Shanghai Airlines, already a member of Star. But Shanghai Airlines has little influence within the global grouping compared to Air China, also a member of Star Alliance. For Michael Blunt, Oneworld Vice President Corporate Communications, “China Eastern joining Oneworld would be by far its best choice. And the recent merger with Shanghai Airlines will not affect the airline’s decision?
Oneworld has currently no plan to integrate a carrier in Southeast Asia. For Michael Blunt, “with Cathay Pacific and its affiliate Dragonair, we think that both airlines fly the Oneworld flag well for us in this area”. The alliance however is now on the verge to announce the integration of a Brazilian carrier, most probably GOL.