With the addition of South African Airways (SAA) and TAP Air Portugal, the membership of Star Alliance will grow to 17 carriers. The SAA and TAP applications were unanimously approved by Star's board in early June and they will become full members during 2005. In addition, Finland's Blue1, an SAS subsidiary, will become Star's inaugural regional member in October. Star chief executive Jaan Albrecht says the new members boost the Alliance's worldwide traffic share by 1.3 points to 28.8%.

There is no "magic number" of carriers at which Star becomes full, says Singapore Airlines head Chew Choon Seng, but adds that "it is something that engages our minds". United Airlines chief executive Glenn Tilton is comfortable with Star's market share rising still further. "A share of 35% wouldn't bother me," he says.

The large markets of China, India and Russia remain "white spots" in terms of Star membership, adds Tilton. However, while there has been little progress in recruitment in these states, bilateral deals between individual Star carriers and airlines from these countries are growing, says Vagn S¿rensen, head of Austrian Airlines. The cost for a regional Star member to join is considerably less than for a full member, and these airlines will not have full voting rights. "We have done a lot of work on establishing the concept, on how to add regional coverage but keeping costs and complexity as low as possible," says Albrecht. For instance, regional members have to be integrated with the frequent flyer programmes of their sponsoring carrier.


Source: Airline Business