It may be one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets but oneworld alliance carriers will continue adopting a "wait-and-see" attitude to recruiting a member from among India's carriers.
Oneworld managing partner John McCulloch said at an event in Tokyo in early March to welcome Japan Airlines (JAL) as a new member that in India "we are still talking with everybody there because it is still an open market".
He says this includes Air-India and Indian Airlines, which are being prepared by the government for a merger (see story below), despite the fact there have been reports the enlarged airline entity plans to join the rival Star Alliance.
"Initially when we started with India Air Sahara was our favoured partner and a couple of our airlines signed up bilaterals, but then of course they went through the flirtation with a merger," says McCulloch, referring to Air Sahara's failed sale last year to Jet Airways.
"So our view is that we had better wait and see. Air-India and Indian Airlines is going to be a very interesting player as well. It's rather like Russia - it is a wait and see game. The strongest players probably still haven't emerged yet."
Oneworld's membership will settle at 10 full members with the addition of JAL, Malev and Royal Jordanian in April, and after Aer Lingus leaves the grouping. The alliance has already said that it hopes eventually to sign up Indian and Chinese carriers as members.
McCulloch has said there is no immediate rush to have a member from China, where Air China and Shanghai Airlines have announced plans to join Star and where China Southern Airlines has opted to join SkyTeam. Oneworld has no mainland Chinese members although Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways is a founding alliance partner and Cathay subsidiary Dragonair is due to join as an affiliate later this year.
"We will still be looking at China and obviously the unaligned carrier is China Eastern," says McCulloch. "For some time now we have been talking to a number of partners and looking at a number of options in China. We will continue to do that. We will continue to look for expansion of our network in China and yes we are talking to China Eastern. But we have never been an alliance that has gone for size."
JAL is meanwhile forecasting relatively modest initial revenue gains from being part of oneworld but hopes to benefit more in future as one of the group's three largest members. Chief executive Haruka Nishimatsu says JAL expects around $30 million in additional revenue in the first year, although he notes that "this number is conservative". JAL will maintain its many bilateral deals with carriers from rival alliances.
Source: Airline Business