LAN and TAM are two of the dominant airlines for travel to and within South America. After their decision to merge, it was strongly believed that the combined airline would join the oneworld alliance along with American Airlines, British Airways and others.
It’s official now and View From the Wing has some thoughts about how that affects the travel landscape.
I’ve mentioned in the past that American is very strong to South America from the US. They recently announced their desire to expand Sao Paolo service from pretty much all their hubs. This move further bolsters that strength.
I started flying United for some of my traffic a couple of years ago because I wanted to have status on Star Alliance for trips to Europe and also wanted access to more direct flights from my home market of Washington, DC at Dulles airport (oneworld is pretty limited for direct flights to Europe out of IAD). While there are still plenty of direct flights to Europe out of IAD, the last 5 or 6 times I’ve searched for award inventory on United and its partners, I found the most availability on partner flights which were generally connections to where I was going. That definitely decreases the value that Star Alliance has for me, though it’s a small sample size of searches. If I’m going to connect, then there’s not much difference in my mind whether that connection is in the US (such as JFK for oneworld) or elsewhere for Star (Toronto and Frankfurt are cities where I’ve seen plenty of inventory lately for connecting flights to Europe).
As Gary points out in his post, Star is still stronger in Europe and Asia than oneworld. And, I think in Europe the fact that Lufthansa is a part of Star is a big plus. Wandering Aramean put together a very timely group of maps that illustrate the ways that Star Alliance connects North American to Europe, and the density of the lines on those maps shows just how complete this part of Star is. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences flying Lufthansa. But, oneworld is creeping up on them. Air Berlin was a pretty decent addition last year. That addition and the joint venture between American, British and Iberia (with Finnair joining) have added some heft to the oneworld European picture.
The LATAM move was expected and will certainly be welcomed. And, I don’t foresee many more seismic shifts in the alliances. But, then again, a US/American merger didn’t seem likely to me 2 years ago…..