Gol expects to add four more codeshare partners

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Brazil's Gol plans to add four more codeshare partners over the next year as it continues to pursue its strategy of linking up with several carriers without joining a global alliance.

Last month Gol forged a codeshare deal with Qatar Airways, which becomes the Brazilian low-cost carrier's sixth codeshare partner after Aeromexico, Air France-KLM, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Iberia. Gol CFO Leonardo Pereira told today's Raymond James 2011 Global Airline conference that "we probably have another four deals we'll announce in the next 12 months".

All six of Gol's current codeshares were added over the last 24 months as part of a new strategy at Gol to link up with as many foreign carriers as possible that serve Brazil. Gol has repeatedly said it is not interested in joining a global alliance, despite interest from Oneworld and SkyTeam, and instead prefers to establish bilateral relationships with airlines from both alliances as well as other non-aligned carriers. Rival Brazilian carrier TAM last year joined the Star Alliance.

Pereira says Gol refers to its fast-growing network of partner airlines as "the Gol alliance". He says the idea is to offer domestic connections to passengers flying from or to gateways overseas. So far the all the codeshares are only one-way deals in that Gol has not yet started placing its code on any other carrier but its frequent fliers are able to accrue and redeem mileage on all members of "the Gol alliance".

Gol started pursuing tie-ups with foreign carriers after shutting down its own long-haul scheduled operation in 2008. Pereira says Gol now has no interest in the low-cost long-haul market.

Pereira says 96% of Gol's flights are now three hours are less, which is the stage length in which he believes "the low cost model can be very, very successful". The remaining 4% of Gol's flights are medium-haul flights to northern South America and the Caribbean, where Gol still uses the Varig brand.

Gol also now operates long-haul charter flights using four Boeing 767s that it was unable to return to lessors or sublease after shutting down its long-haul scheduled operation. But Gol has no interest in using these aircraft again for scheduled services and considers the charters a temporary solution to offset the cost of the leases. The aircraft for some time were grounded, which had a negative impact on Gol's earnings as Gol was continuing to make lease payments.