Brazilian low-cost carrier Gol is not ruling out a joint venture with its US partner Delta Air Lines, as airlines the world over move towards partnerships outside traditional alliances.
"That's a possibility," said Gol's chief executive Paulo Kakinoff when asked during a panel discussion on alliances and joint ventures.
Delta invested $100 million in Gol in 2011 and holds a stake of around 3% in the Brazilian carrier.
Nicholas Ferri, Delta's vice-president for Latin America and the Caribbean, says the carrier will "definitely be very interested" in joint ventures in Latin America: "They will be good for customers, shareholders and employees."
Airlines are gradually moving towards new ways of partnering one another, and alliance members are no longer restricting themselves to working within their own groupings, said the executives on the panel.
Such partnerships are important for smaller carriers, says ALC chairman and chief executive Steven Udvar-Hazy. "They have to create linkages with big global airlines," he adds. A joint venture would also allow airlines to place joint aircraft orders that will likely result in cost savings, he notes.
Delta's Ferri acknowledges that while the airline is happy working with Gol, he does not "see any objective in Gol joining SkyTeam". He says: "It used to be, 'You cannot co-operate with so and so outside the alliance', but those days have passed."
He adds: "We are very pragmatic when it comes to that [partnerships]."
Neither Gol nor US low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways foresees being part of a global alliance any time soon. "We are a South American airline and we have a limited range with our aircraft," says Gol's Kakinoff. "This is how we would like to stay."
JetBlue chief commercial officer Robin Hayes says the airline is focused instead on driving bilateral partnerships with individual carriers rather than alliance membership.