- oneworld introduces new platform for linking up to the alliance enabling smaller operators that were reluctant to meet the detailed requirements for membership to still enjoy benefits of partnerships with full members;
- New oneworld connect platform launched on the opening afternoon of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 74th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit (WATS) in Sydney, Australia;
- Fiji Airways first to join the global grouping through new membership tier having been sponsored by all four of oneworld’s original founding members - American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas;
- New membership level seen as way for grouping to evolve to remain relevant in a fast changing aviation market.
The new membership level was launched on the opening afternoon of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 74th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit (WATS) in Sydney, Australia, with Fiji Airways the first airline to join. A date will be announced in due course for when the airline will start offering oneworld connect services and benefits.
Alliance officials confirm talks are progressing with other carriers from around the world which include operators from various parts of the world including the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. Rob Gurney, CEO of oneworld says the connect platform is based on a "very scaleable model" to simplify processes for member airlines and to "remove impediments" for adding new members.
Each oneworld connect partner will need to have a minimum of three oneworld members as its sponsors to be initiated into the programme. The initial oneworld sponsors of Fiji Airways will be all four of oneworld’s original founding members - American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. The Australian flag carrier will additionally mentor Fiji Airways through its oneworld connect implementation process.
Under the terms of membership connect partners don't necessarily need to establish relationship with every single member airline, a key difference to the full membership option. Instead they are only required to enter into agreements with sponsor carriers. American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qantas already code-share and have frequent flyer links with Fiji Airways and British Airways and the carrier are currently said to be "discussing areas for potential bilateral cooperation".
Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG, parent of British Airways, says alliances need to "evolve to remain relevant in this fast changing industry" and oneworld is "demonstrating that it is flexible enough to be able to respond to these changing opportunities".
oneworld Governing Board chairman Pekka Vauramo, currently CEO of Finnair, says that as global airline alliances have expanded their breadth and now account for around 60% of total industry revenues and capacity globally, and 70% of revenues between the world’s top 125 business city airports “they have reached maturity” with most of the world’s biggest airlines already signed up.
“oneworld connect enables us to bring together more airlines to complement the alliance’s global leaders, so customers can earn rewards and feel recognised while travelling even further,” he says, noting that the alliance will still look for future full members, but will target “large airlines that have a significant presence in the alliance’s prime target market, providing connections between the world’s leading business centres”.
In a CAPA TV interview immediately after the announcement, Mr Gurney said that with fewer potential new candidates available to recruit based on its established membership criteria, oneworld connect enables the alliance “to link up with other airlines whose networks are relevant to a subset of our members, who cannot meet oneworld’s full membership requirements at this stage or who are not interested in full membership at present”.
Mr Gurney added that for oneworld connect partners "the association with the oneworld brand is highly valuable"and as such believes it will be the "main driver" for membership growth going forward. "But, to be clear, this is not about growth for growth's sake ... it's not about just adding more airlines," he added.
Marc Cavaliere, chief marketing officer at Fiji Airways confirmed to The Blue Swan Daily in Sydney that the connect programme “enables Fiji Airways to gain all the alliance benefits without all of the complexities”. The agreement will enable the airline to grow its presence internationally and to build on the inbound tourism that is so vital to Fiji and the South Pacific region.
You can find out more about Fiji Airways' entry into oneworld in our exclusive video interview with its CEO Andre Viljoen.