IATA: Oneworld poised for big expansion step

Cape Town
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Oneworld is gearing up for unprecedented expansion as five airlines join the alliance over the next 12 months.

Speaking at the IATA annual general meeting in Cape Town, Oneworld chairman and American Airlines chairman and chief executive Tom Horton said: "We are currently in the midst of the biggest membership expansion in Oneworld's history." The current expansion phase started with the induction of Air Berlin last year and should be concluded by the end of 2014 when US Airways joins once its merger with American is concluded. "This increases our capacity, departures and revenues by more than 50% and adds 200 destinations to our alliance network," says Horton.

The next carrier to join Oneworld is Qatar Airways, which is due to be inducted in the fourth quarter, while Sri Lankan comes on board in March next year.

As a result of the decision by the merged LAN/TAM to consolidate its membership in Oneworld, affiliate LAN Colombia will become a member before the end of the year. TAM will then switch from the Star Alliance to Oneworld in early 2014, says Horton.

"That's a big deal because that is the principal carrier in Brazil which is the region's largest economy, and it's in another alliance so it's nice to have them come over to the 'A-Team'," he adds.

American already has strong network connections to the Latin American market, and the arrival of LATAM will provide the airline with a "great strategic advantage for many years to come because we have the pre-eminent US carrier in Latin America combined with the pre-eminent carrier in Latin America".

Horton is hopeful that the American/US Airways merger plan will clear regulatory hurdles and be completed before the end of the year. "US Airways should come over from Star to Oneworld sooner rather than later after that, certainly within the next 12 months."