Brazil's Varig Airlines has joined the growing list of Star Alliance members, with Lufthansa's president Jürgen Weber promising further signatures from "at least one" Asian carrier before the end of the year.

The entry of Varig, which flies to every major South American destination, is initially restricted to a joint frequent-flier programme beginning on 26 October with other Star members Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Thai Airways International and United Airlines. Later, schedules and other operations will also be aligned. The deal stops short of a full codesharing arrangement, although Varig has bilateral codeshares with Lufthansa and SAS.

The arrival of the Brazilian carrier extends the number of Star Alliance destinations to 642. The original five airlines together posted combined sales of $3.4 billion in 1996, and that is due to grow substantially for 1997. One source at United Airlines claims a potential of $200 million extra sales generated by the Alliance since it was launched in May.

According to Weber, the Alliance is now in "serious discussions" with several Asian Pacific airlines, including Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines (SIA) and All Nippon Airways. Lufthansa sources agree that negotiations with SIA are "complicated" by the Singapore carrier's links with Delta Air Lines and Swissair, but says: "That does not stop us talking."

American Airlines and Asianz have agreed to codeshare on the South Korean carrier's flights between the USA and Seoul, beginning on 20 November.

Source: Flight International