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North American LCCs continue to secure strategic deals with network airlines

Interline relationships between North American low-cost and mainline carriers continue to proliferate as they partner to broaden their network reach.

The latest agreement is between Canadian low-cost powerhouse WestJet and oneworld's British Airways. The interline deal is scheduled to debut in 2011, and Westjet says the carriers plan to share more details "early in the new year".

WestJet's agreement with BA strengthens its ties to oneworld after the carrier unveiled an interline agreement with American Airlines in October. The agreements WestJet has forged with the oneworld carriers allow the alliance to expand its footprint in Canada. Currently Star Alliance has a lock on Canada through flag carrier Air Canada.

American vice-president of strategic alliances Kenji Hashimoto says "Canada is a very big market and a very important market". American and BA have secured their relationships with WestJet after the Canadian carrier broke off ties with Southwest Airlines and clarified it has no definitive agreement with Delta Air Lines.

Hashimoto says keeping a focus on the customer entails providing "the best product from a network perspective, and the reality is that might mean a very high quality product that happens to be a low-cost carrier. WestJet, JetBlue and Jetstar are all good examples of that as partners that are defined as low-cost carriers, but they provide very good products to our customers."

In addition to WestJet, American has an interline agreement with JetBlue and codeshare arrangements with Brazilian low cost carrier Gol and Qantas' low cost subsidiary Jetstar. American also has a long-standing codeshare with Alaska Airlines.

If the relationships between American and its current low cost carrier partners prove successful, Hashimoto believes there are other possibilities for similar relationships if they serve the customer well.

He also sees potential to evolve some of interline relationships into full codeshares. American and JetBlue recently launched a reciprocal frequent flyer agreement and expanded the interline deal introduced in July. Overall Hashimoto says in the long run it is helpful to the customer to see "some of these things evolve into deeper relationships. At the same time you need to walk before you can run".

Read more on American's interline deal with JetBlue

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