Singapore Airlines (SIA) is to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on bilateral co-operation shortly with Lufthansa, as an initial step to becoming a full member of the rapidly expanding Star Alliance.

According to industry sources, the two airlines could sign an MoU on 24 November, although this could slip as Lufthansa is planning to reveal a major revamping of its passenger services on international routes at about the same time

SIA and Lufthansa have declined to comment on any new Alliance plans.

SIA is known to have been in discussions to join the Star Alliance for some time, along with Cathay Pacific Airways and All Nippon Airways (Flight International, 20-26 August). Lufthansa's chairman Jurgen Weber visited Beijing at the start of November and says that he hopes to enlist two new Asian carriers to the six-member Alliance by the end of the year.

It is understood that SIA's admission would be gradually cemented by concluding staggered bilateral agreements with Lufthansa's other Star partners, including Air Canada, SAS, Thai Airways International and United Airlines. Varig Brazil recently became the sixth member to join.

SIA, in turn, is in the process of forming an alliance with Air New Zealand (ANZ) and Ansett Australia, which are also being tipped to eventually become Star members. ANZ and Ansett already have overlapping relationships with Air Canada and United.

It is unclear, however, what the impact of SIA joining Star will be on its alliance with Delta Air Lines and Swissair. Other than forming a Zurich-based joint purchasing company, accomplishing a minor share swap and creating limited numbers of codeshares, the so-called Global Excellence Alliance has done little.

Swissair is reported to be still engaged in make-or-break talks with SIA to broaden co-operation. As a possible fallback, it recently concluded a codeshare with Malaysia Airlines on services between Zurich and Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, Cathay is expected shortly to clarify its position on Star membership. A drop-off in international traffic is causing it to reconsider its opposition to the idea.

Source: Flight International