Global alliance oneworld insists that it is not in a rush to sign up a Chinese partner airline, despite recent advances into the Chinese market by rivals SkyTeam and Star Alliance.
While Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways is a oneworld member, China Southern Airlines has opted to join SkyTeam while Star Alliance has sealed agreements with both Air China and Shanghai Airlines.
But speaking in Paris as Japan Airlines accepted a formal oneworld invitation to join the alliance, oneworld managing partner John McCulloch said that the airline group was unconcerned about its lack of a presence in the rapidly-developing Chinese market.
“We feel under no pressure to sign a mainland Chinese carrier,” he says. “It’s as much about finding a match for us as about finding a carrier in the region."
McCulloch admits that SkyTeam’s and Star’s recruitment of three strong airlines might “narrow the options” but he says that oneworld, which has adopted a more gradual expansion strategy compared with its rivals, is unfazed.
“China is obviously a market we want to cover,” he says, but points out that coverage alone is only one of a long list of criteria – one which is growing – that airlines are required to meet before being accepted by oneworld.
oneworld has also highlighted Central and South America, as well as India, as regions in which it would like to expand its network – although McCulloch says that the “huge” Indian market, which is experiencing extensive air transport changes, will “take some time to shake out”.