Oneworld starts affiliate program for small airlines

Photo Credit: Angel DiBilio/Shutterstock

SYDNEY -- The Oneworld airline alliance has created an affiliate program for carriers that are too small or don't offer a wide enough suite of services to meet its membership criteria.

Fiji Airways, which serves 21 destinations in 13 countries, will be the first airline in the new program, which is called Oneworld Connect. 

"In the future, we expect most of the Oneworld growth to come via Oneworld Connect," alliance chairman Pekka Vauramo, who is also the CEO of Finnair, said during a press conference held in conjunction with the IATA Annual General Meeting on Sunday.

Oneworld is comprised of 13 major airlines from around the globe, among them American, British Airways, Qantas, Qatar and LATAM. But Vauramo said there are still areas of the world in which the alliance would like to increase its presence.

Oneworld is also in discussion with undisclosed carriers from the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific about joining Oneworld Connect.

To become a Oneworld Connect partner, a carrier must be sponsored by at least three full-scale Oneworld members. The airline will then participate in loyalty program partnerships with its sponsors, and it will enter into interline check-in and baggage agreements with those sponsor carriers.

Customers of the Oneworld Connect airlines will have access to Oneworld alliance lounges at select airports. In addition, the Oneworld Connect partner will offer priority check-in access to all Oneworld Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby members and priority boarding for all Emerald and Sapphire members.

American, Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific are the four sponsors of Fiji Airways. The carrier already has a codeshare agreement with American, but American CEO Doug Parker said that Fiji's entry into Oneworld Connect would give American's customers more options as they travel to Fiji and beyond.

"It allows us to more efficiently connect people taking advantage of the Oneworld global network," he said.

The Oneworld Connect program is similar to the Connecting Partners program launched by the 28-airline Star Alliance in 2016. So far, only Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines is participating in Connecting Partners.

Oneworld CEO Rob Gurney acknowledged that in developing a way to work with small carriers, the alliance is adjusting to an industry that has been transformed by discount operators such as Ryanair and by full-service global airline Emirates.

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