SkyTeam has recruited Portugalia as its latest associate member and expects the Portuguese regional carrier to join the alliance in 2008.

The global alliance last summer introduced its associate member scheme with launch members Air Europa of Spain, Panama’s Copa Airlines, Kenya Airways and Romanian carrier Tarom, for partners of existing full SkyTeam members that do not necessarily meet all the strategic criteria to become full members of the grouping.

At the start of this year Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines became the fifth carrier invited to join under the scheme.

SkyTeam made the announcement in a press briefing in Paris on the eve of the IATA Annual General Meeting. Portugalia becomes the sixth carrier to join under the associate member programme.

The Portuguese carrier had already identified its interest in joining SkyTeam under the scheme and Air France will now act as its sponsor to join the alliance. SkyTeam anticipates Portugalia will complete the necessary joining requirements by 2008.

Air France chairman and CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta says: “As we welcome Portugalia’s interest in our associate programme, we look forward to strengthening our already robust European network and increasing our connectivity to and within North Africa, providing our passengers even more flexibility and choice in air travel.”

SkyTeam officials hope to see the six new associate members start to formally join the alliance later this year.
SkyTeam now numbers 10 full members following the April entry of Russian carrier Aeroflot.

Portugalia’s entry into SkyTeam will mark the second Portuguese carrier to ally with one of the major groupings; TAP Portugal is already a member of the Star Alliance.

Portugalia operates a 17-strong fleet and carries nearly one million passengers annually.

Source: Airline Business