AirFrance-KLM has been in the papers again with rumours that it’s considering buying Alitalia. The group was quick to crush these as simply that, saying it categorically is not interested. The rumours sprang from what was going on to try and keep Alitalia in Skyteam.
AirFrance is especially concerned – but so are other Skyteam members – that a Lufthansa buyout of Alitalia will lead to it joining StarAlliance. They want to make any Lufthansa purchase dependent on Alitalia remaining in Skyteam, arguing that StarAlliance will have too deep a hold on European air travel to remain competitive.
Lufthansa are never going to accept that but it could pave the way for Alitalia being a member of one while remaining interlined with the other.
The loss of Alitalia from Skyteam would reduce the European part of the alliance to just AirFrance, its partner KLM, Air Europa and Czech Airlines.
Some argue the purpose of alliances has become redundant with airlines like Emirates and Etihad ignoring them and suffering no consequences from doing so. The vast majority of airlines aren’t in alliances, preferring to make their own deals with individual operators, often crossing alliances.
Oneworld recently lost AirBerlin – a personal annoyance for Willie Walsh of IAG who sponsored their entry just five years ago. Oneworld is possibly the least strict of the alliances, allowing its members to create ties with non-members. Skyteam and StarAlliance members have argued for similar freedoms, but Lufthansa has an iron grip on the organisation and rarely do members stray outside of its framework, in the way Qantas in Oneworld has with Emirates.
However such laxity often causes upset – Cathay Pacific has never been happy about the Qantas move, feeling betrayed and ignored to the point of considering withdrawal from Oneworld. Similarly American Airlines and Qatar often behave with each other as though they’re not even in the same organisation. Lufthansa crushed fellow alliance member Turkish Airlines operations to regional destinations in Germany by refusing to list their flights or interline until they stopped.
Quite what will happen with Alitalia won’t be revealed until April 15th.