Avianca is leaning towards joining the Star Alliance but the Colombian carrier has not yet completely ruled out SkyTeam or remaining independent.

Avianca's chairman and owner, German Efromovich, told ATI during the FIDAE 2010 air show in Santiago that "we have a honeymoon with Star Alliance, but SkyTeam and remaining a non-allied carrier are also still the options".

He adds "there are intensive conversations about an alliance membership going on" and "no final decision has been taken yet".

While Star and SkyTeam remain possibilities, membership in Oneworld has been excluded despite Avianca's extensive codeshare alliance with Oneworld powerhouse Iberia.

Avianca in August 2009 told ATI it was not looking at joining a global alliance. But later in 2009, after unveiling plans to merge with El Salvador-based airline group TACA, Avianca acknowledged it planned to relook at global alliances.

TACA in 2008 started the process of applying to join Star. Initially Avianca said TACA would continue this process while it pondered its alliance options separately. But Efromovich now says any alliance decision will be made by Avianca and TACA simultaneously.

"We are merging, so there are no divergent strategic paths, although we will maintain different brands," Efromovich explains.

Avianca and TACA have always stated they would remain separate entities once the merger was implemented. Efromovich says Ecuador's Aerogal, which was formally acquired earlier this year and is now being folded into the newly combined Avianca-TACA, will also retain its own brand.

He explains that Aerogal "has a strong local brand recognition". While the brand will be maintained "the corporate image will be unified".

But he says Ocean Air, a Brazilian carrier Efromovich also owns, will be rebranded Avianca. Efromovich confirms the "rebranding to Avianca has been decided and is imminent".

Avianca-TACA is now looking at joint route network opportunities between the different airlines of the group. Efromovich says that "many options are still being studied", which might result "even in some non-traditional routes" operated by the group airlines outside their home territory "if it creates group synergies".

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news