Six of Latin America's largest carriers have agreed to the concept of forming an alliance called "Andean Wings". But it remains unclear how close they really are to an agreement.

The heads of Aerolineas Argentinas, LanChile, Varig, TAM Mercosur, Aces/Avianca, and Aeropostal discussed the concept over dinner at the home of Enrique Cueto, LanChile's chief executive, during a major aviation conference in Santiago. According to Antonio Mata, chief executive of Aerolineas, they agreed on a target of early June to draft an accord.

But the head of one of the other airlines, who asked not to be named, claims Mata jumped the gun. The other executive admits discussions are under way and the carriers are open to alliance proposals, but he says Mata's announcement was premature. "Mata's speech, first telling us to 'stop crying' over our critical situation, and then announcing the Alas Andinas [Andean Wings] alliance through a newspaper without our consent was quite unusual, to say the least," said the executive. LanChile adds that nothing is yet concrete.

As described by Mata, the alliance would focus on rationalising capacity and codesharing on flights to Europe, joint purchases, and other shared or co-operative ground and back office operations. Only one airline per country has been mentioned as a proposed alliance member. That may be due to anti-competition concerns.

As reported, TAM's involvement is only through its Mercosur unit in Paraguay. If alliance members stick to this approach the only other significant potential members are Panama's Copa, Peru's AeroContinente, Bolivia's LAB or AeroSur, and one of the Mexican carriers Mexicana or Aeromexico.

In 1997 LanChile, TAM, and Grupo Taca made headlines by jointly ordering 110 Airbus A320s. Two years later LanChile and Aerolineas shared a short-lived cargo venture. Since then LanChile has continued to push for closer regional cooperation, but it has been rare.

Source: Airline Business