Alliance has high hopes of first Chinese member as Austrian Airlines welcomes Lufthansa plan to acquire Swiss

Star Alliance is intensifying efforts to sign up Air China by the end of this year to fill one of the global grouping's "white spots", despite Oneworld member Cathay Pacific's recent swoop for a 10% stake in the Chinese flag carrier.

Meanwhile, Austrian Airlines chief executive Vagn Sorensen, speaking after a ceremony in Lisbon to mark the induction of TAP Portugal as the 16th Star member, welcomed the prospect of a takeover of rival Swiss International Air Lines by Star founder-member Lufthansa.

Star chief executive Jaan Albrecht said in Lisbon that a long-sought deal with Air China, which already has bilateral agreements with several members of the alliance, could be imminent, subject to approval by Beijing. "We have high hopes a moment will come within a short period of time when we can announce the membership of a Chinese airline," said Albrecht.

He said Cathay's stake in Air China was not seen as a stumbling block in the talks. Star's other acknowledged "white spots" are India and Russia.

As for Lufthansa's prospective Swiss takeover and its impact on Star, Austria's Sorensen said he would veto any proposal for Swiss to join the alliance in its own right. But he said Austrian could work with its former Qualiflyer partner again if Swiss became a subsidiary of the German flag carrier.

Sorensen said a Lufthansa takeover of Swiss would be "by far the best" outcome for his carrier, rather than having the Zurich-based airline continue to compete with Austrian independently, or join a rival alliance, "assuming Swiss is going to survive". The neighbouring hubs of Munich, Vienna and Zurich "are still there whether Swiss is a friend or enemy", he added.

Sorensen said previous areas of successful co-operation with Swiss's bankrupt predecessor Swissair under Qualiflyer, such as joint aircraft purchasing, could be revived.




Source: Flight International