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Avianca believes Lufthansa is receptive to venture proposal

Colombia's Avianca is proposing to negotiate a joint business venture with Star Alliance partner Lufthansa similar to the arrangement under discussion with United Airlines.

Avianca chief executive Hernan Rincon, speaking to FlightGlobal in London, said the airline had "put the subject on the table" with the German flag-carrier.

Rincon claims that the two sides have had a "good conversation" and that there is a willingness to "explore" the possibility.

Avianca's interest in a tie-up is part of a strategy to go beyond the co-operation potential offered by Star Alliance.

Lufthansa Group says it is "always open" to adding partners in the Latin American region which would "enhance our service and product offerings" and benefit customers.

"These partnerships, which are non-exclusive, include interline agreements, frequent-flyer options and codeshare opportunities among all leading Latin American carriers," the German company adds.

Rincon insists that drawn-out talks with United on a joint venture – which would effectively allow the carriers to act as a single airline – are close to conclusion, and he expects a formal pact "pretty soon" – within weeks, rather than months.

But he admits that the discussions have taken longer than Avianca had anticipated. "We underestimated the complexity of dealing with a large company like United," he says.

While he acknowledges that such talks can be time-consuming – highlighting the Aeromexico-Delta Air Lines co-operation – he had believed Avianca's relatively small size, compared with United, might have quickened progress.

"We've been negotiating to death," he says.

But he says the two sides are making "great progress" and that a metal-neutral co-operation with United, incorporating anti-trust immunity, will provide enormous benefits to Avianca's passengers.

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