Global Alliances Not For Everyone

The three major global airline alliances aren't for everyone, including several airlines represented at this week's Phoenix Aviation Symposium. Representatives from those carriers pointed to the costs associated with alliance participation, tech challenges and other concerns.
"We have the ability to codeshare and interline e-tickets, but so far we haven't seen one that was compelling enough to pursue," said AirTran senior vice president of marketing and planning Kevin Healy. When asked about domestic alliances in particular, he said they "always sound good but you have to be careful what you ask for and if you can afford it. The cost is not small."

Canada's WestJet will choose partners "that fit our network needs and our customer needs," said John MacLeod, the carrier's vice president of revenue management and planning. "There isn't a global alliance out there that fits for us." MacLeod clarified that WestJet currently shares codes with no one, but added that "it is our hope" to re-establish an agreement with Southwest. Southwest ended that deal when WestJet evidently altered it to accommodate a partnership with Delta. Though Delta CEO Richard Anderson had said the airlines signed that agreement, WestJet issued a statement saying that no such deal had been finalized.

Outside of North America, at Virgin Atlantic "we enjoy our partnerships with other carriers but don't have to join an alliance," said director of commercial and revenue planning Edmond Rose. "We quite like having bilateral alliances with airlines that make sense for us geographically."

Rose added that he is "worried that the regulatory environment assumes that all long-haul carriers will be in global alliances, but we will carry on ignoring that." At least for now.

Emirates also has "concerns about alliances," said senior vice president Andrew Parker, suggesting that only the largest one or two members of the three global partnerships exert control. He also said the combination of alliances that wield pricing immunity and the trend toward larger, consolidated airlines "worries us slightly. I hope we don't emerge from the downturn and see a complete rewriting of the competitive landscape of aviation." That said, Parker added that Emirates "can make our own way in the world independently."