The Oneworld alliance could soon count another airline among its ranks, with Mongolia’s national carrier confirming it is “actively pursuing” Oneworld membership.
It’s be a big step for the small state-owned MIAT Mongolian Airlines, which currently counts just four Boeing 737s and a single Boeing 767 in its fleet, while the first of two longer-range Boeing 787-9 jets arrived earlier this month – although those are pre-owned models from struggling Hainan Airlines, complete with the Chinese carrier's modern 1-2-1 business class.
MIAT Mongolian intends to fly these Dreamliners from its base in the national capital Ulaanbaatar to Frankfurt, Istanbul and Seoul, although a non-stop route to San Francisco is also on the cards.
And joining Oneworld would play into that modest international expansion, says MIAT Mongolian CEO Munkhtamir Batbayar.
Speaking with CNN’s Richard Quest on the airline’s future flight path, Batbayar leant into the importance of partnerships, including codeshare alliances with Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, adding “we are actively pursuing to get into the Oneworld Connect program... where those two major partnerships are in, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.”
Sometimes described as ‘Oneworld Lite’, the Oneworld Connect program is aimed at smaller airlines with more of a regional footprint without the high cost and complexity of full Oneworld membership.
Oneworld Connect launched in 2018 with debutante member Fiji Airways, whose application was sponsored by American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.
MIAT Mongolian would be only the second Oneworld Connect member, with Cathay and JAL as logical backers.
Approached by Executive Traveller for comment, a Oneworld spokeswoman said the alliance “is in discussions with potential partners at any point in time. We are not able to comment on specific partners until discussions have concluded.“
However, she noted that “as global travel continues to recover after the pandemic, airline alliances have become even more important in providing network connectivity to airlines and their customers.”
How Oneworld Connect works
All Oneworld frequent flyers receive a pared-down set of benefits such as priority check-in and priority boarding on a Oneworld Connect airline, although status-holders from a Oneworld Connect sponsor enjoy beefed-up benefits including lounge access, the ability to earn points and status credits and also to spend their points on award seats or points+pay bookings.
Another practical perk, and one with clear appeal to travellers in transit between Oneworld and Oneworld Connect flights, is that sponsor airlines can through-check your baggage – and you, for that matter – between flights.
Speaking of status, MIAT Mongolian’s Blue Sky Mongolia frequent flyer program has four tiers – from entry-level Blue to Silver, Gold and Platinum – which would broadly line up against the equivalent levels of other Oneworld airlines.
As previously reported, Oman Air will join Oneworld by 2024, with Africa’s RwandAir tipped to follow and discussions with former SkyTeam member China Southern also underway as Oneworld chairman and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker mounts an “aggressive” push to build the alliance’s membership and muscle.