Ink was barely dry on the new Japan-US bilateral before the scramble started to form newly authorised codesharing alliances.

Each of Japan's three major airlines has now picked US partners, and Delta Air Lines, which thought it had an agreement with All Nippon, ends up the loser.

Delta and ANA had signed an agreement three years ago to form a trans-Pacific alliance that would include codesharing on an expanding network.

Ultimately the alliance would have given Delta access via ANA's routes to many Asian cities beyond Japan. That agreement could not proceed, however, until the bilateral was revised to allow codesharing.

Now that it does, Japan Airlines and American have announced a long-expected codesharing alliance. Japan Air System is said to be close to an agreement with Northwest and KLM on a similar deal.

But All Nippon has opted to forge an alliance with United Airlines instead of Delta, and has notified Delta of its intention to terminate theirearlier agreement. This is Delta's second Asian setback in four months following the decision by Singapore Airlines to end its alliance with Delta.

Affiliation with ANA may have held even more promise for Delta because it offered the potential for Asian access from Japan. As a Memorandum of Understanding carrier under the Japan-US accord, Delta lacks fifth freedom rights.

The new Japan-US alliances reflect different strategies by their US partners. American's accord with JAL gives it the Asian access that Delta hoped to gain from All Nippon. Like Delta, American lacks its own rights beyond Japan.

Northwest's proposed JAS alliance is aimed at giving Northwest access to Japan's domestic market. As an incumbent under the bilateral, Northwest already enjoys extensive beyond rights, and does not need a Japanese partner for that reason.

The United-ANA accord will start primarily as a means for United and ANA to share trans-Pacific capacity and access each other's extensive domestic networks. But the two carriers later plan to extend their alliance to flights beyond Japan and the US. This could expand ANA's access to Latin America, and reduce pressure on United to build its own Asian route, even though it has full rights beyond Japan.

ANA announced a new codesharing alliance with Lufthansa on the same day as its accord with United. The timing of the two adds to the inevitable speculation about ANA joining the Star Alliance. That alliance requires each member to have a bilateral alliance with each other member. ANA already has such an accord with Air Canada, another Star member.

The Japanese carrier has tried to silence speculation about its longer-term plans, saying: 'At this point we have not assessed the merits of going into the Star Alliance.'

Source: Airline Business