Continental in a ceremony later today at its Newark hub will formally enter into the Star Alliance, completing an 18 month transition from the SkyTeam Alliance, and becoming the 25th airline to join first global airline alliance.

The impetus for Continental's move was the merger between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines that was unveiled in April 2008. Delta and Continental have considerable overlap in the New York market and geographically close hubs in Atlanta and Houston.

Recently Continental president Jeff Smisek told ATI sister publication Airline Business that the carrier fills a very valuable spot for Star. Prior to Continental joining the alliance Star had virtually no presence in the key New York market. "We're the largest hub airline in New York and the only hub airline with a true global hub in New York," he says.

Smisek also stresses Continental gives Star access to Latin America, another area where the alliance was weak, through Continental's Houston hub. "For us Star provides us a great opportunity in the Pacific, it provides us an additional presence on the west coast through United's network. "

Through Continental's membership Star, the alliance now offers 19,500 daily flights to 1,071 airports and 171 countries.

As part of Star's plan to co-locate its members in the same airport and areas around the world, Continental plans by year-end to move operations at 11 airports. On 1 November it moves to Terminal 1 in Frankfurt and to the South Wing of Terminal 1 at Tokyo Narita.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news