Oneworld needs a mainland Chinese carrier as a member, in the view of the alliance's new chairman, Finnair chief executive Pekka Vauramo.
"It's the biggest market where we don't have any member airline," he said on the sidelines of the IATA annual general meeting in Cancun. "Clearly, it's something that Oneworld needs."
A consequence of the gap in the membership is that carriers are forced to create their own codeshares and partnerships outside the alliance, says Vauramo. For example, Cathay Pacific codeshares with Air China, BA with China Eastern, and Qantas with both China Eastern and China Southern.
"Since we don't have a partner right now, all the Oneworld members have a free hand to make their bilaterals in China, which we see happening," he notes, adding that the alliance had not made significant progress on the issue.
Discussing the value of alliances amid increasing signs that carriers are relaxed about inter-group tie-ups, Vauramo argues that such developments are a natural consequence of having large memberships.
"The alliances have grown very big... there are less and less things they can agree within an alliance," he says. "It's part of the reason they have become less relevant for all members jointly.
"But I'm sure that alliances can do more to become more relevant for the members," he adds, suggesting that a focus on efforts to improve technology – particularly to create seamless passenger journeys – would help towards that. "There’s space for improvement in that [area]," he says.
Vauramo was nominated to the chairman role by Oneworld's governing board on 4 June. He succeeds former Cathay Pacific chief Ivan Chu.