Oneworld sees network key to securing merged LAN

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Oneworld partners remain confident they can keep long-time member LAN in the alliance once the Chilean carrier completes its merger with Star Alliance airline TAM.

The two Latin American carriers are set to finalise their merger, which in creating LATAM will be by the region's largest operator, this spring. The partners must then decide the alliance strategy for the merged carrier, a decision which LAN chief executive Damian Scokin expects to follow by around mid-year.

"We are in active negotiations with the alliances and we expect to have a decision in the next few months," he said, speaking to Flightglobal during a Oneworld event marking Air Berlin's accession into the alliance.

"First and foremost LATAM is about growth. We believe we have a lot of growth opportunities both to Europe and the US, and the foremost criteria from an alliance partner is who can help us grow."

Securing LATAM would be a double win for Oneworld as alongside keeping LAN in the camp, it would also give the alliance its first carrier in Brazil.

Oneworld chief executive Bruce Ashby is hopeful the alliance's long relationship with LAN and network strengths will win the day. "When you look at our network offering we are very well positioned in the cities that are most important for Latin American travel - Miami, Madrid, New York," he says. "So I think we have a really strong proposition for LAN and TAM and we are really eager to welcome both of them into the alliance. But I take nothing for granted."

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce is also hopeful the Oneworld partners proposal will be strong enough to secure the merged company. "We are very keen to keep them in the alliance. We think they are an amazing asset. They are the best carrier in South America. They are a very important partner of Qantas," he says.

Joyce notes the importance of LAN as a partner for Qantas is underlined by the Australian carrier's move to pull off its Sydney-Buenos Aires route and replace it with services to LAN's Santiago base. "If we had any qualms about the future of LAN we wouldn't be making such a dramatic change," he says.