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
"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
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
"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.