SAA seeks to codeshare with TAM and Turkish Airlines

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Star Alliance carrier South African Airways (SAA) aims to add Turkish Airlines and Brazil's TAM as new codeshare partners in 2009.

SAA head of business development Jason Krause says SAA and Turkish are natural partners now that the two carriers are both in Star and reveals the two are already "in preliminary codeshare discussions".

SAA, which currently does not serve Turkey, is interested in codesharing on Turkish Airlines' Johannesburg-Istanbul service and Turkish destinations beyond Istanbul. Turksish, meanwhile, is interested in codesharing on SAA destinations beyond Johannesburg.

While Turkish Airlines formally joined Star in the middle of this year, TAM last month committed to join the alliance in late 2009 or early 2010. Krause says SAA is glad to see TAM joining, as SAA lost connectivity for its Sao Paulo service after Brazil's Varig withdrew from Star.

He reveals: "We've been having on-and-off codeshare discussions with TAM prior to their intention to join Star. We certainly encouraged them to join."

In addition to codesharing on SAA's Johannesburg-Sao Paulo flights, the two carriers will likely codeshare on TAM's potential new flights between the two cities, as well to destinations beyond the two hubs. TAM has long eyed launching service to South Africa and, earlier this month, indicated Johannesburg could be its only new international destination next year.

SAA is eager to extend its codeshare network as it currently doesn't have the aircraft to launch new long-haul routes.

As part of a restructuring initiated in 2007, SAA dropped service to Paris and Zurich and delayed plans to add Chicago and Buenos Aires. Krause says he would like SAA to resume growing in 2009 with more capacity on "core international routes" and one new route. But he adds that a lack of aircraft could be a constraint and prevent SAA from launching any new long-haul routes next year.

If SAA does add a new long-haul destination, Krause says it will be a major hub with good connection opportunities rather than simply a strong origin-and-destination market. "Given the global economic slowdown we need to be prudent over what we launch," he says.

He adds that Buenos Aires and Chicago are options, especially as the latter is a hub of Star partner United Airlines. But the two cities will be revisited only "when the timing is right".