Six airlines already in the Star Alliance have agreed to extend their partnership by forming a global cargo alliance. The move follows a two-day meeting in Neu-Isenburg, Germany, of the carriers involved.

Air Canada Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo, SAS Cargo, Thai Airways International, United Airlines Worldwide Cargo and Varig Brazil have agreed to integrate their cargo networks, make common use of handling equipment and computer networks, and to co-operate in road-feeder services.

The partners also plan to develop new, common products such as express freight services.

The airlines plan to meet again in March 1998 to open discussions on further moves towards expanding the alliance.

Lufthansa Cargo already operates common freight services with Thai and Varig, and announced earlier this year that it wanted to follow its parent airline's expansion of it passenger operation into a global alliance.

The company suffered a DM60 million ($34 million) loss in 1996, but results have improved, with a 0.6% increase in freight tonnage yielding a DM100 million profit in the first nine months of 1997, compared with a DM66 million loss over the same period in 1996.

The German company has, meanwhile, also introduced a new "business-partnership programme" which aims to create a more-efficient logistics chain, smoothing its cargo interaction with its business partners and optimising operational processes.

The company is to begin the six-month pilot phase of the programme in partnership with Air Express International, Expeditors International, Hellmann and Jet Speed Forwarders at the beginning of 1998.

The idea for the alliance came as a part of Lufthansa Cargo's "Direction 2000" strategy which is directed at returning the company back into the black and stabilising profits at around the $40-60 million mark a year.

Source: Flight International