Hungarian national carrier Mal...v says a fear of being considered a second tier of the Air France-led SkyTeam alliance led it to switch allegiance and start discussions with Oneworld last week. Mal...v has signed a memorandum of understanding to enter talks with a view to being invited to join the British Airways/American Airlines Oneworld team as its ninth member by the end of next year.

This marks a sudden shift away from SkyTeam, towards which the airline had been leaning for some years. SkyTeam partner CSA Czech Airlines had been acting as a sponsor to Malév's membership, but Mal...v says: "Oneworld has offered us real membership, while SkyTeam has not." The carrier feels its treatment as an associate member in SkyTeam would have left it "on the side of the field".

The Budapest-based carrier underwent a change of senior management in February, appointing Janos Gonci as its new chief executive, and a source close to the alliance decision says the incoming team was not convinced that SkyTeam was Malév's best option. "One of the things that struck [the new Malév managers] as soon as they arrived was that [Malév] didn't fit with SkyTeam," the source says. "In terms of the network fit, they were already surrounded by SkyTeam partners."

Prague, in neighbouring Czech Republic, is already established as a SkyTeam gateway in central Europe through CSA, while Oneworld has no existing members in the region.

The other major grouping, Lufthansa-led Star Alliance, is strongly represented in the area through partners Austrian Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines, and new regional members Slovenia's Adria Airways and Croatia Airlines.


Source: Flight International