Lufthansa has apparently ruled out any direct financial assistance for its Star partner United Airlines, but this will not stop the two carriers strengthening their relationship during 2003. They are investigating the possibility of expanding their extensive codeshare arrangements between the USA and Germany to other European Union countries.

The carriers are seeking to take advantage of the European Court of Justice ruling on open skies deals between individual European governments and the USA. In Europe, Lufthansa and United are working with regulators in France and the UK to obtain national approval to put the Lufthansa code on flights between Paris and London and the USA. Such a move "means European carriers can sell more effectively in each other's markets," says Craig Jenks, of New York-based consultants Airline/Aircraft Projects.

Lufthansa confirms that it is looking at what kind of expanded codeshare relationship it can develop with United across the Atlantic, but adds that it is too early to say when it might be implemented. "A serious initiative by one alliance could lead to multiple codeshares of this type across the Atlantic over the next year," says Jenks.

The carriers are also discussing ways to jointly increase revenue and share costs as part of a project called Atlantic Plus. This will seek closer ties in fields like ground handling and the use of lounges, and has already seen Lufthansa begin performing ground services for its partner at Frankfurt. In the USA, Lufthansa will use some of United's Red Carpet Club first class lounges instead of its own Senator lounges.

These benefits will be in addition to an agreement struck between the carriers before United's bankruptcy filing to enter into a joint venture on the North Atlantic, with revenue sharing, more codesharing and joint marketing and sales, with the ultimate aim of increasing revenues by $90 million per year.

Source: Airline Business