India's Kingfisher Airlines has become a member elect of the oneworld alliance, after signing a formal agreement with the 12 existing members on the sidelines of the World Air Transport Summit in Berlin.
The carrier signed a memorandum of understanding with oneworld in late February, setting out a framework for membership discussions. Today's agreement comes after India's ministry of civil aviation gave the airline's application its green light.
A team of experts from British Airways - Kingfisher's sponsor for joining the alliance - and oneworld have helped the airline to begin the process of joining the alliance, and the carrier has cleared the first step by passing a safety audit. A firm date for it to join the alliance will be announced as the implementation programme progresses, although oneworld says that this normally takes 18-24 months.
"The addition of Kingfisher Airlines is another key element in making 2010 even more of a breakthrough year for oneworld," says Gerard Arpey, chairman and chief executive of American Airlines and chairman of the alliance's board. Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways, adds: "We are very pleased to have gained regulatory approval so quickly from New Delhi to add Kingfisher Airlines to oneworld - and we intend to move ahead with its implementation just as speedily and smoothly."
Vijay Mallya, chairman and chief executive of Kingfisher, says that membership will strengthen the carrier's competitive position. He adds that the airline will try to complete the implementation programme on time and smoothly.
Oneworld says that the membership process involves connecting the new recruit's IT systems to those in all other members, and standardising its customer service, frequent flyer and distribution processes.
Links between oneworld and Kingfisher will deepen when a new passenger terminal opens at New Delhi's international airport next month, when all six alliance members that serve India's capital will then share Kingfisher' new premium passenger lounge.
Adding Kingfisher to oneworld will give the alliance an additional 56 Indian cities to its network, expanding its global coverage to more than 800 destinations in almost 150 countries. Kingfisher's main Indian hubs are in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore. The airline launched its first international routes in September 2008, and serves hubs like Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Singapore.