TAM favours Star for alliance link

In a strategy shift, Brazil's TAM has announced plans to join one of the three global alliances this year, and David Barioni Neto, TAM's new president, says it will probably be Star.

Until now, TAM has repeatedly said it would not commit itself to one of the global groups, but would focus instead on bilateral alliances. Shortly before his resignation as president in November, Marco Antonio Bologna expressed caution by telling Airline Business that "before making a decision to join a global alliance we have to fully understand the benefits".

Barioni has not committed TAM to the Star Alliance, but says TAM has closer relations with Star than any other group. TAM codeshares with Star carriers TAP Portugal and United Airlines. In December the carrier also agreed with Lufthansa, a founding Star member, to start codesharing in the first half of this year on flights between and beyond São Paulo and Frankfurt.

Star has the weakest penetration in Latin America of any of the global alliances, and has been especially keen to recruit one or more strong Latin airlines since it dropped Varig last year. With TAM's cross-border market share now at 73%, it is clearly Brazil's strongest international airline.

TAM's change in position is part of a new emphasis on passenger service. Local analysts claim a key reason Bologna was replaced by Barioni was TAM's principle shareholders felt the airline was drifting away from its reputation for good service. Barioni's prediction that TAM will join an alliance comes at the same time as he has revealed other plans for the carrier to "strengthen its service edge" over low-cost rival Gol. These include an improved frequent flyer plan and more cahin legroom.

Source: Airline Business