What's next for airline alliances and partnerships?

Insight from the World Routes Strategy Summit in Chengdu, China.

Partnership models to extend network reach are varied and complex. At World Routes a panel of experts debated which partnership models work, if alliances are still a viable option and if there will be further consolidation.

For Aboudy Nasser, senior vice president for network and revenue management at Oman Air, any cooperation is about network and distribution reach. When Nasser is looking at new collaborations, the key question he asks himself is”can I target a passenger who I would have otherwise not have been able to access”.

Through this approach Mr Nasser looks for both parties to be able to capitalise on each others strengths. Evert Meyer, head of international network and strategy at Qantas held a similar belief and explained that the Qantas China Eastern partnership will provide access to a diverse market which it could otherwise not have accessed.

Marco van Vliet, head of network & alliances at Kenya Airways asserted that the agendas of the major alliance groups are often driven by a few large carriers while joint ventures with a profit sharing mechanism allows both airlines’ sales teams to focus on the overall profit for the JV and not on which airline to make the sale for.

Meanwhile Philip Lewin, head of alliances & partnerships at Finnair expected to see more co-sharing agreements, however he was looking to ensure alliances further develop their digital offerings. Meanwhile, Aboudy Nasser, senior vice president of network and revenue management at Oman Air was more sceptical saying alliances need to do some soul searching to see if the still serve a purpose for the members as a whole and if they are a value to the individual members.

For Benyamin Ismail, chief executive officer at Air Asia X the focus remains on building its business in India, Japan, China and Taiwan, after which Air Asia X will explore alliances in Europe and North America.

The debate continues within the industry around alliances. From the debates at World Routes this year it seems that alliances remain a success if they allow airlines to access customers which they otherwise would not have had access to.

Moreover Khalil Lamrabet, director - aviation business development at Dubai Airports made a further case for collaboration within the industry. “Partnerships are not only important to us, but fundamental” he said Khalil during a panel session. For Dubai “the airport is the first step that the passenger sees before they get to their destination” he added. Given 50% of passengers at Dubai airport are transiting onto their final destination the airport represents a key opportunity to market Dubai as a destination itself.

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