Star Alliance chief executive Jaan Albrecht remains confident the alliance can secure a member from Russia, the last "white spot" in its network.
Russia's S7 Airlines and its affiliate Globus formally joined Oneworld earlier today. With Aeroflot a long-time member of SkyTeam, Star is now the only global alliance without a member from the large and fast-growing Russian market.
In speaking to reporters last week at a Star event in Miami, Albrecht recalled how Star a few years ago first identified Brazil, India and Russia as its major white spots and stepped up recruitment efforts in the three countries. With Brazil's TAM formally joining earlier this year and Air India expected to complete the process of joining in mid 2011, Albrecht acknowledges that "leaves Russia" in Star's campaign to fill all its white spots.
He says "Russia hasn't been an easy market" due in part to the spate of mergers and acquisitions the highly fragmented market has experienced. "A lot is happening and a lot will continue happening," Albrecht says. "We are watching the evolution."
With Star announcing new members this year in Latin America and Africa, which will give the alliance three members from each of these regions and 31 total members, clearly Russia is the big recruitment priority for 2011. "I feel this will be the major big area that Star can be in position to finally fill in its white spot strategy," Albrecht says.
But he adds Star is also still open to adding more members in regions where it already has a presence, explaining it has "no artificial limits" or cap in place that would prevent it from continuing to expand.