Oneworld chief executive Bruce Ashby believes "patchwork" deals between airlines are useful, but feels that larger and more formal partnerships offer greater benefits to more customers around the world.
The issue comes to the fore as Oneworld founding member Qantas Airways is ending its partnership with fellow alliance member British Airways on services between Australia and the UK. This comes as it embarks on a comprehensive agreement with Emirates that involves transferring many of its Europe-bound passengers onto the Dubai-based carrier's aircraft in the Gulf city.
Also in Australia, non-aligned Virgin Australia has created a "virtual" alliance via comprehensive partnerships with Delta Air Lines, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand that give its passengers a global reach that they would not otherwise have.
"If you look at the 100 million top business people in the world, 86% of them fly on an alliance. We are talking about the premium customer who travels a lot outside his home country and not necessarily on his home carrier," Ashby said at a ceremony to mark Malaysia Airlines' entry into the alliance.
"Patchwork bilateral alliances do not have the comprehensive benefits that we offer - similar benefit levels for all customers of the member airlines, access to all of our lounges, greater access to networks around the world. We have a basic customer proposition that places the customer at the forefront."
However, Ashby acknowledged that some airlines - including those within Oneworld - will need to find other agreements to suit their requirements. The alliance, he adds, is happy to retain that flexibility.
"Oneworld does not go everywhere for sure. So we encourage our members to form other alliances and allow it if they feel that it benefits them. This is in contrast to the other alliances, which do not allow it. We believe that binding our members to do what they don't want to is a failing proposition."