India's Kingfisher Airlines aims to join the Oneworld as its 12th member, after signing an agreement with the alliance to take its first step towards full membership.

It also applied today to India's civil aviation ministry for approval to join Oneworld, says the alliance.

Kingfisher will likely take 18 months to complete the process to become a member, which means it could start flying as an Oneworld airline during 2011, says Oneworld.

Kingfisher's chairman Vijay Mallya and chief executives from the alliance's 11 member airlines signed a memorandum of understanding for Kingfisher to start the process to join Oneworld, it says.

British Airways will sponsor and support Kingfisher through its alliance implementation programme, adds Oneworld.

"Kingfisher is an ideal fit for Oneworld. It has a strong focus on customer service and its network expands what the alliance currently offers," says BA's chief executive Willie Walsh.

Kingfisher operates to 70 destinations, with the majority in India. It has a fleet of 66 aircraft, and carried 10.9 million passengers in the financial year ended 31 March 2009.

"Becoming part of Oneworld would be one of our most significant steps so far - and is right in line with our vision to become one of the world's top airlines," says Mallya.

"It will also strengthen us financially, through revenues from passengers transferring to our network from our Oneworld partners and the cost reduction opportunities the alliance offers."

Kingfisher has reported three loss-making quarters so far in its current financial year. For the fiscal third quarter ended 31 December 2009, the carrier posted a net loss of 4.2 billion rupees ($91 million).

It recently hired management consulting firm Seabury Aviation & Aerospace to help improve its financial performance.

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Source: Air Transport Intelligence news