Chris Jasper/ATLANTA

Delta Air Lines and Air France have chosen a name for their global alliance, which the US carrier says will be launched "within a couple of months". Delta will not reveal details of the branding, but director of alliances Brent Conwell says it will mark a departure from the rival "Star" and "oneworld" tags in that it will seek to market the alliance, as well as giving it an identity.

Conwell indicates that Delta and Air France will establish the grouping along with allies Aeromexico and Korean Air, but hints that a further member could be recruited prior to launch. He adds that though KAL is likely to be on board from day one, the Asian carrier is still working to improve its safety record and that full codesharing is unlikely before next year. KAL currently places passengers on Delta flights, but the US major does not reciprocate.

Conwell says the new alliance will aim to have "no more than eight or ten core members", suggesting that focus can be lost with more. He adds that the alliance "has a definite interest" in Thai International, which, though a Star member, is to be privatised in the medium term and could switch camp when seeking an investor.

The new group's Asian presence, built around the development of South Korea's new Inchon airport as a major hub, could be boosted by the recruitment of China Southern Airlines, China's largest carrier and a Delta ally, which Conwell sees as "a good long-term prospect".

Conwell says prospects for expanding the alliance's third big hub at Paris Charles de Gaulle will give it "massive" strength in Europe but he would like to expand to London Heathrow. Delta now flies only to London Gatwick, and a US-UK deal giving it access to Heathrow is a key goal for the alliance.

Other airlines within the Delta-Air France orbit include Russia's Aeroflot, with which the French major is negotiating. The group's Latin American coverage south of the Caribbean is to be improved by expanding Delta's own network, with the carrier aiming to become the third largest US presence in the continent, after American Airlines and Continental Airlines.

Source: Flight International