Tarom finally ready to join SkyTeam, plans more codeshares

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Romania's Tarom plans to have codeshares in place with all SkyTeam members by the end of this year as the carrier finally prepares to enter the alliance.

Tarom chief Ruxandra Luciana Brutaru says the carrier already has codeshares in place with most of SkyTeam's 12 members, and deals with the remaining carriers are now being finalised. "We have codeshares in place with almost all members and we will keep on signing with all of them," Brutaru says. "By end of the year we'll finish those."

Tarom will formally become SkyTeam's 13th member on 26 June, just over five years after first agreeing to become a member of the alliance's former associate carrier programme. Brutaru says the delay was primarily driven by a change in management.

"We were supposed to join together with Air Europa and Kenya Airways [in 2007]. It's been really a change of management. Unfortunately the airline had a change of management and the new management that came in place needed a bit more time to select the right alliance," she says.

Brutaru explains Tarom's new management team wanted to make sure the carrier selected "the right alliance". The carrier's new management ended up confirming the previous management team's selection of SkyTeam and formally committed to joining in May 2008. Brutaru, who joined Tarom's management team in 2007 and took over as CEO at the end of 2008, has since "continued the process" of formally joining the alliance.

She says Tarom was scheduled to formally join in March of this year but agreed to wait another three months so it could join the same month as SkyTeam's 10th anniversary. Vietnam Airlines also agreed to join in June, although it formally joined on 10 June. "Because it was the celebration of the 10th anniversary of SkyTeam, we jointly decided the two airlines would join around the time so the celebration period would be nicer," Brutaru explains.

In the meantime, SkyTeam has decided to drop its two-tier structure, resulting in Air Europa and Kenya Airways upgrading from associate to full members and Tarom joining as a full rather than associate member. Brutaru says the change, which was formally implemented at this week's SkyTeam meeting in New York, is "fortunate" for Tarom.

Brutaru, speaking to Flightglobal at the conclusion of the SkyTeam meeting in New York, says earlier this month Tarom successfully migrated from its own frequent flier programme to Air France's Flying Blue programme. She says the carrier didn't need to migrate to a new IT system to support its ascension into SkyTeam because it has "been using the SITA product for many years".

While Tarom works on having codeshares in place with all SkyTeam members the carrier also continues its plans to forge new partnerships with airlines outside the alliance. For example, Tarom earlier this year began codesharing with Latvia's Air Baltic and last year began codesharing with Switzerland's Flybaboo.

"There are certain markets which are important for us and we want to make sure we develop them with the right partners," Brutaru explains. "Flybaboo is not a SkyTeam partner but it is an airline that has very similar objectives as us and SkyTeam, it has the same frequent flier programme and it was very important to us on a specific route. It's the same with Air Baltic."