Star Alliance expects to add “a couple” of airlines to its network over the next six to 12 months, after having revised its connecting partner model.
Speaking to FlightGlobal in Singapore, the alliance’s chief executive Jeffrey Goh says these will likely be airlines from Europe and Asia, whose parent companies are already full Star Alliance members.
Over the last 12 months, the alliance has learnt from the experience of its first connecting partner – Juneyao Airlines – as well as from potential candidates, on how the model can be improved. It has also decided to focus on adding subsidiaries of Star members, as a “first priority”.
“This is a recognition of our original intent. When we developed this, many of our members were beginning to or have developed low-cost platforms, and a significant number of customers have moved from the traditional Star network to these lower cost platforms. This model allows us to recapture these customers and markets, to continue to let them have the seamless privilege of the alliance,” says Goh.
This does not mean the alliance is not open to adding non-Star-related airlines as connecting partners, but Goh says most of the top 10 low-cost carriers or regional airlines already fall under its member carriers.
Over the last 12 months, the alliance has also looked at how it can make the connecting partner model “less burdensome”.
As part of this effort, connecting partners now only need to comply with about 20 standards, down from over 40 when Juneyao first joined, and less than half the 60 standards full members have to adhere to.
Connecting partner airlines are not obliged to paint their aircraft with the Star livery, ensure codeshare synchronisation or attend board meetings. It also only needs to execute frequent flyer agreements with three airlines as a start.
Goh says “costs and complexity” are two things potential partners are concerned about, and Star is committed to ensuring that it does not add unnecessary complexity to the model.
He adds that since coming on as a connecting partner, Juneyao has seen double-digit growth in connecting passengers. The airline now has interline agreements with 11 Star members, and codeshares with four.
The connecting partner model allows regional, low-cost or hybrid airlines to link to the Star network without becoming a full member. These partner airlines enter into bilateral commercial agreements with selected Star carriers.