Air France chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta does not see mergers or acquisitions as the only way forward for consolidation of the European airline industry.

"Even without mergers and acquisitions, consolidation is under way in Europe," he said during an address to the Aviation Club of Great Britain in London last week.

"What happened to Swissair and Sabena and the resulting redistribution of traffic flows within Europe is a true consolidation process. Even if there are no equity links, alliances are also a real consolidation process...for me alliances are the real thing," he added.

On the claim that just three carriers will be left in the "European landscape" in the next few years, Spinetta said: "I don't quite share this view. There will only be three major alliances - Oneworld, Star and SkyTeam - led on the European side by Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa. But these alliances will include several European carriers, which will remain independent."

Spinetta sees a phase of the consolidation process when airlines such as Swissair and KLM, which have failed to build strong alliances, join the major groups. Only then will, "consolidation through mergers and acquisitions take place," he says.

Source: Flight International