Star Alliance expands its network reach with the launch of its Connecting Partner Model. The new concept will invite selective “low-cost” and “hybrid” airlines to join the network and provide passengers with more choices.
“With this innovative concept, we are breaking new ground. We see a definite trend of convergence between the ‘traditional full service’ and ‘low-cost’ business models in the airline industry,” said Mark Schwab, CEO Star Alliance. “At the same time, our customers are telling us that they need access to markets where we do not yet provide ideal coverage. In many cases network carriers are not in a position to fill this gap and hence working with future Connecting Partners will allow us to provide an extended network to our travellers.”
Connecting Partners will have to meet some of the same criteria to qualify for the program. However, they will not be a full member of the alliance (e.g. Air Canada, United Airlines, etc).
Passengers travelling on an itinerary which includes a transfer between a Star Alliance member airline and a Connecting Partner will be offered Alliance benefits such as passenger and baggage through check-in (i.e. en route boarding passes would be issued and baggage tags may include the entire itinerary). Star Alliance Gold Card holders will enjoy a tailored set of privileges in line with the different product offerings of the individual Connecting Partner.
Connecting Partners will enter into bilateral commercial agreements with selected Star Alliance member airlines (interline opportunities), which may include additional Frequent Flyer Programme based privileges (however, this is not mandatory).
The first airline to participate in this program will be Mango Airlines based in South Africa.
“We are delighted to be working with Mango as we marry traditional and low-cost or hybrid airlines for the first time in our Alliance’s history. The airline’s innovative and progressive style makes it an ideal candidate for launching our new Connecting Partner concept. We aim to have first customers using this new offer as of the third quarter of 2016,” adds Schwab.
Mango Airlines serve the following routes currently:
- Johannesburg (OR Tambo International) and Cape Town
- Lanseria (Johannesburg) and Cape Town
- Johannesburg and Durban
- Cape Town and Durban
- Bloemfontein and Cape Town
- Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth
- Cape Town and Port Elizabeth
- Johannesburg and George
- Johannesburg and Zanzibar (2x weekly)
It is owned by South African Airways and uses a fleet of ten Boeing 737-800s with 186 economy seats. It does not feature a separate business class product.
The first wave of airlines that would be invited to this program will likely be low cost/hybrid airlines created by existing alliance members. They include:
- Peach Aviation – All Nippon Airways is a joint venture partner
- NokScoot/Scoot/Silk Air – Subsidiary of Singapore Airlines
- Nok Air/Thai Smiles – Subsidiary of Thai Airways
- Eurowings – Subsidiary of Lufthansa German Group
These airlines operate as either a complete separate entity with little to no interline agreements (e.g. Peach Aviation and ANA) or have agreement to operate under one umbrella (e.g. Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge). They are more likely to base/operate to secondary airports or leisure destinations where yields are lower.
Here is a list of benefits and challenges for inclusion into a separate model:
Benefits – 1. Integration problems may be lowered as these airlines may already use similar or not the same technology as their parent; 2. Passengers would have more destinations to fly within one ticket; and 3. Some Star Alliance Gold amenities may be extended though they would be different per each connected partner (which could lead to confusion)
Challenges – 1. Not all Star Alliance benefits will be available by the connected partners (e.g. these airlines likely do not have lounges); 2. Fare classes of connected partners and selective Star Alliance members will need to be integrated which could lead to confusion with mileage earning, 3. irregular operation could need to challenges as the partners may not be fully integrated technically.
Star Alliance continues to expand its network around the world. The next wave of invitations will be for its Connected Partners problem featuring low-cost/hybrid airlines. Look to these airlines to have selective agreements with Star Alliance members (based on region).