The SkyTeam Alliance is looking to further expand its reach in the Asia-Pacific region and has taken a major step forward in bringing Vietnam Airlines in as a full member.
The alliance's governing board chairman, Leo van Wijk, said in early June at the IATA annual general meeting in Istanbul that formal discussions with fast-growing Vietnam Airlines are set to begin soon in Hanoi.
The move represents a big step forward in SkyTeam's aim to add new members from the Asia-Pacific. Partners in the region currently include founding member Korean Air and China Southern Airlines, which joined last year. Van Wijk says that elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, the group has been in informal discussions with China Eastern Airlines, which rival alliance oneworld is also courting, as well as Taiwan's China Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and India's Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In addition, it has been speaking with Bangkok Airways of Thailand about a possible affiliate membership.
© Vietnam Airlines
Van Wijk says none have yet committed, however. He adds that India in particular is a market in which SkyTeam very much wants to have a member. Oneworld is also courting both Jet and Kingfisher in that market, while late last year Air India agreed to join the Star Alliance.
In other parts of the world, SkyTeam has been talking with Gol in Brazil, says van Wijk. Romania's Tarom signed an agreement in May formalising its intention to become the fourth carrier in SkyTeam's affiliate programme while Lebanon's Middle East Airlines is discussing becoming the fifth affiliate. "We are not looking for the largest number of participants, but we would like to see members joining us who have complementary coverage, rather than overlapping coverage," van Wijk says.