Eva Air to complete Star’s Northeast Asian network

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Star Alliance's Northeast Asian network will be virtually complete once Taiwan's Eva Air joins the global grouping in June.

With Air China, Shenzhen Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Asiana Airlines in Northeast Asia, Eva will "fit one more piece of the puzzle" for Star in the region, says the alliance's chief executive Mark Schwab.

"Last year we added Shenzhen Airlines to Star to complete our package in the southern part of China and then we'll be welcoming Eva from Taipei in Taiwan in the middle of June, which will kind of wrap up the whole package in Asia," he says.

The key attraction for having Eva in Star will be to increase the alliance's presence in cross-strait flying between mainland China and Taiwan, adds Schwab.

That market is currently dominated by the rival SkyTeam alliance. Its members China Southern Airlines, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines recently launched their Greater China Connection programme, which aims to strengthen their connections between cities in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Schwab adds that the alliance is not looking to add any other carriers from Northeast and Southeast Asia to its network in the short term. There is, however, a gap in India and South Asia.

The alliance recently restarted engagement with Air India, but Schwab says that it "hasn't really reached a conclusion there".

Air India has long planned to join the alliance, but Star suspended its integration in August 2011 after the carrier failed to meet the minimum membership conditions.

Star is also in favour of signing up India's Jet Airways, which has applied for governmental approval. New Delhi, however, is expected to delay Jet's application so that state-owned Air India joins an alliance first.

Jet has also held discussions with SkyTeam, but any progress on its plans to join a global alliance are likely to be on hold as the airline focuses on sealing an equity alliance with Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways.

Schwab adds that the alliance is also looking to add a partner carrier in Russia to give it more coverage in eastern Europe. It is also looking to overcome the challenge posed in Brazil when LATAM Airlines carrier TAM eventually leaves Star, which is expected later in the year.

AviancaTaca group and Copa Airlines are the other Star Alliance members based in Latin America.