South Korea's Asiana Airlines is set to join the Star Alliance this year and its membership plan could be confirmed as early as June.

The carrier has been considering membership in a multilateral alliance for years and airline sources say it has now taken an internal decision to join five-year-old Star, rather than the rival oneworld alliance. Asiana is in exclusive talks with Star after breaking off discussions with oneworld. A formal agreement remained subject to the negotiation of entry terms acceptable to both sides, but Asiana was hoping to use a meeting of Star chief executives in Shanghai around the time of the IATA annual general meeting in early June to announce its decision.

Asiana's biggest supporter within Star is All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan, with which it already has strong codeshare ties. The South Korean carrier's entry will give Star a strong partner in North Asia, allowing the alliance to better compete with the SkyTeam Alliance, which already includes Korean Air (KAL). Apart from Asiana, Star has been talking with potential new members in China for some time and is aggressively pushing for Beijing-based Air China to join, although this is not expected for at least one or two more years.

LOT Polish Airlines is another carrier that is expected to confirm membership in Star this year. It has already signalled its intention to eventually join the grouping, and has a partnership with Star founding member Lufthansa.

China is seen as the biggest hole that Star and the other major alliance groupings need to fill in the years ahead. Asiana has an extensive China network that continues to grow and it has strong ties to Chinese majors Air China, China Eastern and China Southern Airlines.

Source: Airline Business