Two global airline alliances, SkyTeam and OneWorld, are bullish on India and have started holding preliminary discussions with Indian carriers to attract them into their respective teams.
“The need and potential of having an Indian airline in the alliance has grown. We have held exploratory discussions with Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher about joining the alliance. Sooner than later, we will have an Indian airline joining the SkyTeam,” its chairman, Leo van Wijk, said.
Both van Wijk and his competitor, OneWorld managing partner John McCulloch, said India was a huge market and a “major target for us.” The SkyTeam chief said his alliance “has made it a priority to finalize discussions with Indian carriers and select a partner.”
However, McCulloch said the Indian aviation industry, where consolidation has already begun with the Jet-Sahara, Air India-Indian and Kingfisher-Air Deccan deals, would take “three to four years to stabilize. So any decision will have to be taken after that.”
India, China and Brazil were “the next growth markets and the global airline alliances will see more participation from these nations,” he added.
The state-owned Air India has, however, already declared its intention of joining the third group, Star Alliance.
Replying to questions, McCulloch also said India was set to become a “major aviation hub in the next two to five years” and give tough competition to other hubs like the Gulf region and Southeast Asia.
“All the activity that is taking place in the aviation sector—from purchase of aircraft, development of airports or the strong growth of the economy and the resultant increase in demand for air traffic—will ensure that India becomes a major aviation hub. India’s geographical position also goes to its advantage,” he said on the sidelines of the 63rd Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association here. The OneWorld chief also pointed out the “huge local and regional market” coming up in the Indian subcontinent and said “we have to consider that.”
While the SkyTeam has 10 airlines as members, including Aeroflot, Air France, Alitalia, Continental Airlines, KLM and Northwest Airlines, OneWorld has British Airways, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qantas and Royal Jordanian as members.
Star Alliance is the largest with global carriers such as United Airlines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.