Brazilian carrier TAM expects to formally join Star Alliance in around 12 to 18 months once it completes the necessary work to meet the airline grouping's joining criteria.

The Brazilian carrier today announced it has accepted the Star Alliance invitation to join the grouping, filling the gap in the alliance's coverage in the region after former member Varig left the alliance in early 2007 after the Brazilian airline's financial collapse.

For Star Alliance it provides 36 new destinations to the grouping's global network and for TAM marks the latest development in rapid growth which has saw it take advantage of Varig's problems - Brazilian carrier Gol has since begun rebuilding the Varig operation - to become Brazil's leading carrier in terms of market share.

Speaking at an event in Sao Paulo today to announce its decision to join the alliance, TAM CEO David Barioni Neto said: "Eight years ago we were the fourth carrier in Brazil. In just eight years we have gone from the fourth to first." Recent traffic figures showed TAM held a 54% share of the Brazilian domestic market, on top of its near three-quarter share of the Brazilian international market.

"This is a very important step forward for TAM, as through our alliance membership we will gain further international brand recognition," says Neto. He also highlights the revenue opportunities of alliance membership. "Studies show that after the period of 12 to 18 months, we expect $60 million in additional revenues."

Work now begins on the integration process. TAM VP commercial and planning, Paulo Castello Branco says: "The deadline of the next 12 to 18 months is for the integration of TAM systems with Star Alliance. We believe 12 to 18 months will be enough for us to be on track and to reach the requirements."

For Star Alliance it fills one of its global "white spots" since Varig left the alliance. "We are talking about a country and a region in the world which cannot be ignored," notes Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht, highlighting the size of the Brazilian economy, its internal aviation market and the Brazilian-US aviation market.

"TAM has increased its natural footprint in Brazil. We will be able to offer 36 new destinations [through TAM]. TAM has also expanded its international operations and flies into several Star hubs in Europe and North America," he says.

TAM - together with Air India and Continental Airlines who are also bound for Star - will take the alliance's current 21-strong airline membership to 24.


Source: Air Transport Intelligence news