Star Alliance member airlines plan to jointly specify aircraft for future mainline fleet purchases following the success of a pilot project involving regional jets.

Star chief executive Jaan Albrecht says the joint-specification approach will be taken by members to new programmes such as Boeing's 7E7. "It would only make sense, with the attention and response we have received from the manufacturers for the regional requirement," he says.

Star members Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airlines have managed to agree a joint specification for regional jets seating between 70 and 110 passengers, covering products manufactured by Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer.

Albrecht says the carriers - which together need up to 200 aircraft - "probably will be announcing an order in the next few months".

Air Canada is expected to order first, possibly by the end of this year. The orders could be split between two or more manufacturers, but the savings resulting from the common specification will still be realised, the alliance believes.

Only two Star members - Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines - have so far ordered the ultra-large Airbus A380, and while they have failed to agree a fully common specification, they "are talking to each other", says Star.

Albrecht warns that the ultimate goal of shared aircraft ownership between member carriers is still "years away".

The chief executives of the 15 Star carriers convened in Tokyo on 6 December for a board meeting to discuss their cost-cutting efforts. The plan is to combine their full-service, interline and frequent-flyer programme operating model with the best cost, pricing and distribution strategies of the no-frills airlines.

"What we are doing today is reinventing ourselves into a so-called new lower-cost network carrier," says Albrecht.

Among initiatives under discussion is the creation of a single fuel-purchasing entity.

Japanese Star member All Nippon Airways (ANA) may consider introducing the A380 on domestic routes, says ANA vice-president corporate planning Keisuke Okada. However, if Tokyo's congested Haneda airport is expanded, "we do not have to go for this bigger airplane", he adds. Okada does not currently see a role for the airliner on international routes.

Source: Flight International