oneworld pursues expansion by launching new tier of membership

18 June, 2018

The oneworld global alliance aims to expand its portfolio by adding several members under the newly launched oneworld connect platform.


  • The oneworld global alliance has launched a new platform, oneworld connect, for smaller airlines;
  • Fiji Airways is the first oneworld connect member and the alliance is talking to several other airlines about joining the programme;
  • oneworld connect members work closely and offer the full range of benefits with their sponsors but do not need to work with other members.

On 03-Jun-2018, oneworld announced Fiji Airways as its first oneworld connect member and stated it is now in talks with several other airlines interested in joining the programme.

oneworld connect membership is different from full membership and the affiliate member programme, in that approval from all the alliance’s members is not required. Instead a potential oneworld connect member only needs to secure approval from and work with three existing full members.

Fiji Airways has four oneworld members as sponsors – American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Fiji Airways already has codeshare relationships with American, Cathay and Qantas, which also owns a stake in the Fijian flag carrier. Fiji Airways is now discussing a codeshare with British Airways.

oneworld CEO Rob Gurney told CAPA TV on 03-Jun-2018, just after the press conference at the IATA AGM in Sydney announcing Fiji Airways as the first oneworld connect member, that the programme “is designed to accommodate partnership models that don't necessarily need the scope of a relationship with every single member airline. It's where those commercial relationships are more highly focused and more relevant.

“What that means essentially is that there's less of a requirement for the oneworld connect partner and the member airlines to enter into multiple agreements. The oneworld connect partner enters into agreements with the sponsor carriers rather than being required to have a commercial relationship with every single oneworld member. That's the key difference in the membership platforms is one is highly focused around where the key points of commercial interaction are … It's the core connecting points as opposed to the full membership, which has historically been more the domain of larger network type of carriers.”

oneworld currently has 13 full members. The alliance is not actively looking to expand its portfolio of full members, although it is possible oneworld connect members can in future upgrade to full membership.

Mr Gurney explained the oneworld connect programme is viewed as “our main driver for growth. To be clear, this is not about growth for growth's sake. This is growth that's relevant, where we can create value for the connect member and that it actually delivers value for our existing members and of course for our respective customer. It's not just growth to add more airlines. It's relevant commercial opportunities that we can take advantage of with this model.”

oneworld also currently has 21 affiliate members. The affiliate members consist of airline subsidiaries or sister airlines of the full members, as well as regional associates. For example, Cathay Pacific’s regional airline subsidiary Cathay Dragon is an affiliate member.

Affiliate members offer a wider range of benefits to its passengers than oneworld connect members, who will participate in oneworld’s around the world fares and will offer a full suite of reciprocal benefits with all their sponsor airlines (such as lounge access, priority boarding and priority check-in for status frequent fliers) but these benefits will not be available when flying with other oneworld airlines.

“Affiliates is to accommodate a particular type of operating model within the existing membership framework,” Mr Gurney told CAPA TV. “This connect programme is really designed to open up the opportunities for a much broader array of partners. It depends on the airlines we're talking to but essentially the oneworld connect programme is a programme to attract new members that, for whatever reason: size; scale; the degree of connectivity; and commercial relevance amongst members that this model suits very well.

“It's not to say that we won't still recruit full members but there are fewer opportunities we see in terms of full member recruitment and more opportunities in the connect programme. It's not that one replaces the other or anything replaces anything. This is new. It's designed to expand the bandwidth of what we offer to our partners and our member airlines.”

Watch our full interview with oneworld CEO Rob Gurney below: