Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
Further opportunities following the Open Skies deal recently concluded between the European Union (EU) and the US, will be limited primarily to the UK, according to the Star Alliance network.
Addressing a star-studded aviation gathering in Copenhagen today, (14 May) of most of the Star Alliance CEOs and many dozens of media from around the world to celebrate its tenth anniversary, Lufthansa supervisory board chairman, Jurgen Weber, said: ”Open Skies is not totally new and it has already existed between most European countries and the US.
”It just now opens up this famous UK market, which was one of the troublemakers as it was not a level playing field ” there was a lot of protection.”
It was a view echoed by bmi chairman, Sir Michael Bishop, who, speaking to ABTN at the anniversary, noted: ”The UK market has been particularly protectionist and to a certain extent, has been disappointing. In the longer term, there will be more opportunity for European carriers.”
Incumbent Heathrow beneficiary, United Airlines, who along with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines, have long held sway at the British gateway, also lent its support to the deal that will see an end to the interminable see-saw bilateral talks.
”We don”t need to go through these seasonal Open Skies negotiations any more and there are some big implications with this deal,” United Airlines senior vice president, alliances, international & regulatory affairs, Michael Whitaker, said, speaking to ABTN in Copenhagen. ”We supported it [Open Skies] as we think we are better off getting government out of the decision-making process.”
Both Delta and Continental Airlines have revealed plans to shift capacity from Gatwick to Heathrow and Whitaker concedes there may well be ”more short term service” into the main London airport, but that this could eventually shake down.
Airline ownership remains a hot potato on both sides of the Atlantic, but Whitaker is confident that the next stage of Open Skies will yield progress ” eventually ” on what has become one of most intractable battles of recent years.
”Percentage ownership of airlines is different between the US and Europe, but that is an issue for Phase II,” he said.
The prestigious Star Alliance gathering ” also unveiling its new tagline or brand positioning ”The way the Earth connects” ” also addressed the perennial question of whether Europe was ripe for further airline consolidation on the back of recent deals such as Air France-KLM and not surprisingly, came down on the side of groupings as a way to partially achieve that.
”Alliances are the best alternative to full consolidation,” said SAS president and CEO, Mats Janssen. ”Mergers in this industry are complicated in the long term, but through alliances, synergy effects will be achieved on the revenue side, but more could be done on the cost side such as distribution.”
And the day couldn”t pass without Star Alliance taking a swipe at its global counterparts, SkyTeam and oneworld, after initial skepticism that such worldwide groupings could work. ”We have defied many skeptics who saw us as a marketing gag that was only going to last two years,” said Star Alliance CEO, Jaan Albrecht.
”The surprise was how fast we were copied. SkyTeam and oneworld would not have come about if it wasn”t for us. No way.”