Oneworld is set to welcome Qantas’ new premium Asian airline into the family as the alliance looks to strengthen its Asian footprint.
“Qantas will need to work out its strategy for that airline and if they see that its future involves alliance membership they will need to propose it as a oneworld member” says Michael Blunt, oneworld’s Vice-President for Corporate Communications.
And while approval “doesn’t happen automatically”, Blunt admits “there hasn’t been an occasion yet where an affiliate of a member airline has been refused membership.”
Qantas' offshore offshoot will be based in either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, with the names RedQ and AsiaOne shaping up as likely brands (although we still expect that boffins won't quickly abandon the 'Qantasia' tag).
Speaking to Australian Business Traveller at the oneworld alliance’s quarterly meeting of all partner airlines, held this week in Sydney – a meeting at which future member Malaysia Airlines is attending for the first time – Blunt is well aware that Asia is one of the few remaining holes in the oneworld network.
“We’ve had Cathay on board since the launch of oneworld in 1999, they brought Dragonair on board five years ago and that provides really good network coverage to and from Hong Kong.”
“But what we don’t have at the moment is a mainland China carrier, and we’d like to be able to fill that gap” Blunt says – and it’s more a matter of when rather than if.
“It’s no secret that we were interested in China Eastern, but 18 months ago they decided to go into SkyTeam alongside China Southern. We think the market has got a bit of change still to come about, we think there’s going to be further consolidation amongst the carriers, so in the long term we’d certainly like someone from China who can provide business travellers with interconnecting flights in the mainland.”
And to hear Blunt talk, the prospect of Virgin Australia joining Star Alliance isn’t causing oneworld to break a sweat.
“In most other key markets we have airlines in competing alliances, so it’d be just an expansion of that into Australia, a reflection of what what happens already in other parts of the world.”