Last year was the busiest year in activity among the global alliances since their inception more than a decade ago. In addition to continued activity among the ever-busily recruiting Star Alliance - both attracting new members and developing joint ventures among some of its partners – SkyTeam stepped up its recruitment drive after establishing a central management structure, while the smallest of the global alliances, oneworld, was equally busy securing new members and setting up joint ventures pacts.
And there’s no sign of a let-up this year. Little over halfway through January and SkyTeam has already confirmed two new members – today following the recruitment of Saudi Arabian Airlines with the announcement that Middle East Airlines will also be joining next year.
The most notable thing about this development is it marks the spread of the global alliances into the Middle East – which until now has been relatively untouched by the global alliances aside from long-term oneworld partner Royal Jordanian and the Africa/Middle East stradding EgyptAir which is part of Star Alliance. Elsewhere in the region Gulf Air under Samer Majali’s leadership remains keen on alliance membership.
When Lebanese carrier MEA joins SkyTeam in 2012, it will sign a deal at the end of February to formally begin the joining process, it will complete one of the longer gestation periods from courtship to membership. MEA first applied to join SkyTeam as an associate member back in January 2006, but progress stalled until late last year when talks on it joining as a full member - SkyTeam having swapped its two-tier for single full membership structure – helped overcome one of the stumbling blocks by enabling it to retain its frequent flyer programme.
MEA is one of seven carriers in the process of joining SkyTeam which will see membership jump from 13 member airlines today to 20 in 2012. Future members include:
- China Eastern
- Shanghai Airlines
- Air China
- Garuda Indonesia
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Saudi Arabian Airlines
- Middle East Airlines