The Star Alliance has voted in three new members which will formally join within a year, lifting the number of airlines in the five-year-old grouping to 17.

South Korea's Asiana Airlines, Poland's LOT-Polish Airlines and Spain's Spanair were all approved for membership at a meeting of Star chief executives in Shanghai on 1 June. LOT and Spanair had been seen as likely new members for some time, while Asiana is known to have taken a decision earlier this year to seek membership in Star over a place in the rival oneworld alliance, which it was considering for more than a year.

No official dates have been set for when the three airlines will formally take up membership, although Star says it is anticipated they will join within 6-12 months. Earlier this year, LOT signalled its intention to join Star when it signed a partnership agreement with Star founding member Lufthansa. Spanair is already controlled by Star's SAS and has codeshare ties with alliance members, including Air Canada. Asiana has existing ties with members of Star, including Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA), with which it has a codeshare deal.

ANA had been urging Asiana to join for some time to help the alliance build up its presence in North Asia. Asiana's rival, Korean Air, is a member of SkyTeam. One of Asiana's main draws is its extensive China network and its strong ties to Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. Like all major alliance groupings, Star has been seeking a member in China and Air China is seen as its best bet. It is considered unlikely that it will join anytime soon, however, as the Chinese airline industry is undergoing sweeping consolidation.

Star is also seeking a way to re-establish itself in Australia, where it lost member Ansett in September after then-parent Air New Zealand handed the ailing carrier over to administrators. The only major international carrier remaining in Australia is Qantas Airways, which is a founding member of oneworld.

Source: Airline Business