Lufthansa says that it is already in talks with further Asian potential partner carriers to extend its newly unveiled "Star Alliance" with partners Air Canada, SAS, Thai Airways International and United Airlines.

Brazilian carrier Varig also joined in the signing ceremonies, held in Frankfurt on 14 May, agreeing on plans to become a Star Alliance member by October. Other airlines will follow, possibly including a further unidentified Asian partner now in talks with Lufthansa, says airline chairman Jürgen Weber. He hopes to announce this new partnership by the end of the year.

American Airlines and British Airways have used the signing of the Alliance to push their own partnership, which has been making slow progress through US and UK regulatory authorities.

AMR chairman Robert Crandall says that United should end its "hypocritical opposition" to the deal: BA adds that the Alliance signing should enhance its argument.

BA says that the Star carriers serve 340 destinations in the Americas and 578 worldwide, compared with American/BA's 219 and 401, respectively. United says that this is "not the issue", arguing that the American/BA alliance will dominate as BA is the largest carrier operating across the North Atlantic, with American third.

The Alliance integrates agreements between the Star partners, linking networks and frequent-flyer programmes and allowing passengers to use partners' lounges. Passengers will be able to rebook tickets through any partner and, if possible, partners will co-locate at major airports for easy transfers.

Codesharing agreements will remain unchanged for now, although Weber says that his long-term vision would be for "every flight to be a codeshare flight".

SAS president Jan Stenberg says that the partners expect to encounter no problems with anti-trust and competition authorities, since each of the individual partnerships constituting the Alliance has already been cleared.

According to Weber, the Alliance alone should improve Lufthansa's 1997 turnover by DM300 million ($413 million). The Alliance partners between them generated a revenue of $42.3 billion in 1996.

The partners say that Star will include all aspects of the airlines' business, including cargo and maintenance, although this does not rule out the plans being discussed by Lufthansa Cargo with other partners.

Source: Flight International