The FINANCIAL — Kingfisher Airlines on June 7 became a member elect of oneworld after completing a formal membership agreement with the alliance – moving India’s one of the leading airlines a landmark step towards flying as part of the world’s premier airline alliance.
The contract was signed by the Kingfisher Airlines’ Chairman and Chief Executive Vijay Mallya and his counterparts from all 12 of oneworld existing partners and members elect.
It follows a memorandum of understanding reached between Kingfisher Airlines and oneworld, announced in late February, setting out a framework for membership discussions.
A key condition for oneworld inviting Kingfisher Airlines to join has already been met – with India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation granting approval for the carrier to become part of the alliance, just weeks after the airline filed its request for authority to proceed, enabling Kingfisher Airlines and oneworld to move fast forward to complete the formal membership agreement on June 7.
"A team of experts from British Airways – which is serving as Kingfisher Airlines’ oneworld sponsor, mentoring and supporting it through its joining programme – and from the central oneworld team has just returned from visiting their Kingfisher Airlines counterparts in Mumbai and Delhi to set its joining programme in motion. The first element has already been successfully accomplished with Kingfisher Airlines passing oneworld’s safety audit with flying colours," Kingfisher Airlines informs.
The next step in building links between oneworld and Kingfisher Airlines takes place next month, with the opening of the new international passenger terminal at New Delhi, when all the alliance’s six carriers serving the Indian capital will share Kingfisher Airlines’ new premium passenger lounge there.
Meantime, individual members of oneworld have started developing bilateral co-operation with Kingfisher Airlines. British Airways today announced it had reached agreement to code-share with its new Indian partner. The BA prefix will be added to flights by its Indian airline to various points across the Indian sub-continent, with Kingfisher Airlines’ IT designator placed on services operated by the UK carrier to key cities in Europe from later this month. Full details will be announced nearer to the launch of these code-share operations.
The addition of Kingfisher Airlines as a oneworld member elect comes in a breakthrough year for the alliance, in terms of both membership consolidation and expanding co-operation between its members airlines, enabling oneworld to build further on its position as the leading quality airline alliance, to expand its unrivalled route network still further and to offer even more services and benefits to customers.
Japan Airlines has been expanding its co-operation with its oneworld partners since reaffirming its membership of the alliance in February, filing days later with American Airlines for anti-trust immunity for a joint business across the Pacific and more than doubling its code-sharing with British Airways.
Meantime, American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Royal Jordanian are looking forward imminently to gaining long-awaited final approval for their application for anti-trust immunity across the Atlantic and the proposed transatlantic joint business between American, BA and Iberia, following tentative approval given by the US Department of Transportation in February and market testing of proposed remedies by the European Commission.
Elsewhere, LAN Airlines celebrated its 10th anniversary as a oneworld member on 1 June. Since joining, it has added to the grouping its affiliates in Argentina, Ecuador and Peru. With Mexico and Central America’s leading airline Mexicana joining oneworld in November 2009, this extended oneworld’s position still further as the leading Latin American alliance.
Russia’s leading domestic carrier S7 Airlines is on track to join oneworld later this year.
Kingfisher Airlines’ addition to oneworld will link oneworld’s unrivalled alliance network with India’s most extensive domestic network. It will bring 56 cities onto the oneworld map – all of them in India. This will expand oneworld’s global coverage to more than 800 destinations in almost 150 countries, served by a combined fleet of 2,350 aircraft operating some 9,000 flights a day, carrying some 340 million passengers a year.
A firm date for Kingfisher Airlines to join the alliance and start offering its services and benefits will be announced as its implementation programme progresses.
The process to bring any airline on board any alliance normally takes 18 to 24 months to complete. It is a complex project, covering virtually every facet of airline activity. It involves connecting all the alliance recruit’s IT systems to those in all other oneworld airlines, bringing its customer service, frequent flyer and distribution processes into line with oneworld standards and culminating in what will be the biggest training and communications programmes in the airline’s history.
When it joins, the oneworld logo will be added alongside that of Kingfisher Airlines itself virtually everywhere it appears – from its aircraft fuselages, to airport signage, stationery and even name tags.
Once it is part of oneworld, members of Kingfisher Airlines’ King Club will be able to earn and redeem rewards and gain tier status points across the entire oneworld network – expanding the reach of the scheme from across the 69 destinations in nine countries served by Kingfisher Airlines itself to the 800 destinations in some 150 countries served by oneworld as a whole.
Their King Club benefits will be extended, in effect, across all 12 other oneworld airlines, including, for top tier members, access to any of the 550 plus airport lounges offered by the alliance’s carriers whenever they fly on any fare type on any flight operated and marketed by any oneworld member.
At the same time, Kingfisher Airlines’ network will be covered by oneworld’s market-leading range of alliance fares.
Kingfisher Airlines Chairman and Chief Executive Vijay Mallya said: “I am delighted that Kingfisher Airlines has been invited to join what is very clearly the world’s best airline alliance and to fly alongside the best collection of airline brands in the world. By becoming part of oneworld, we will be able to offer our guests travel to more than 800 destinations in 150 countries, on a network that offers the best coverage of the routes and places that really count, flying with the highest quality airline partners. Joining oneworld will clearly strengthen our competitive position still further. Now that Kingfisher Airlines has now become a member-elect of oneworld, we have moved one crucial step closer towards becoming a full-fledged member and our team will certainly do all that is necessary to ensure we complete the implementation programme smoothly and on schedule”.
American Airlines Chairman and Chief Executive, and oneworld Governing Board Chairman, Gerard Arpey, added: “Coming as we deepen our links with Japan Airlines after its reaffirmation to oneworld, as we prepare for Russia’s leading domestic carrier S7 Airlines joining us later this year and as we await final long-awaited approvals from the authorities in both the USA and Europe for our transatlantic partners to work more closely together across the Atlantic, the addition of Kingfisher Airlines is another key element in making 2010 even more of a breakthrough year for oneworld.
“It is another key element in our efforts to solidify oneworld’s standing as the premier global alliance, with the finest collection of airlines brands delivering the highest levels of service to the markets that matter most throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia.” Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of sponsor British Airways, added: “We are very pleased to have gained regulatory approval so quickly from New Delhi to add Kingfisher Airlines to oneworld – and we intend to move ahead with its implementation just as speedily and smoothly. We very much look forward to welcoming India’s leading airline on board the world’s premier airline alliance.”
Besides Mr Arpey and Mr Walsh, the ceremony today was attended by Kingfisher Airlines’ Senior Vice-President Manoj Chacko, Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Tony Tyler, Finnair Chief Executive Mika Vehviläinen, Iberia Chairman and CEO Antonio Vázquez, Japan Airlines President Masaru Onishi, LAN Airlines President Ignacio Cueto, Malév Hungarian Airlines Chief Executive Martin Gauss, Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce, Royal Jordanian Chief Executive Hussein Dabbas, member elect S7 Airlines Deputy Chief Executive Anton Erimen and oneworld Managing Partner John McCulloch.