Al­lied Forces

The fo­cus for air­line al­liances is shift­ing from re­cruit­ing new mem­bers to an em­pha­sis on get­ting the ba­sics right

Business Traveler (USA) - - TALKING POINT - By Jerome Greer Chandler

It seems like only yes­ter­day, but air­line al­liances have been with us for almost two decades. Much of the past fif­teen years were spent on build­ing the roster of car­ri­ers. But re­cently the fo­cus has shifted from re­cruit­ing new mem­bers (after all, there are fewer can­di­dates out there) to­ward an em­pha­sis on the ba­sics of the al­liance prod­uct.

After all, it’s those ba­sics, day in and day out, that go a long way in defin­ing the suc­cess of an air­line al­liance. While all three al­liances are lay­ing on ever more lav­ish perks for their top fre­quent fliers, there are some un­der­ly­ing fun­da­men­tals that still need to be ad­dressed, ac­cord­ing to Dar­ryl Jenk­ins, chair­man of the Amer­i­can Avi­a­tion In­sti­tute.

“I think there are some things they have to do yet,”says Jenk­ins. One case in point: lost lug­gage. The avi­a­tion con­sul­tant be­lieves“if you have a prob­lem right now the air­lines tend to point fin­gers at each other.”He says as al­liances in­te­grate op­er­a­tions more fully there needs to“be somebody will­ing to step up and take the blame”for a prob­lem, and be in a po­si­tion to pro­vide a ready rem­edy.

Air­lines have a long his­tory of in­de­pen­dent think­ing, with their own strong cul­tural iden­ti­ties and in­ter­nal ways of do­ing things some­times go­ing back over decades of op­er­a­tion. Get­ting them all to play nice in the same sand­box isn’t easy.

Smooth­ing out the wrin­kles in such a global sys­tem“is some­thing we have been putting a lot of em­pha­sis on over the last two years,”ac­cord­ing to Star Al­liance me­dia re­la­tions di­rec­tor Markus Ruedi­ger. The idea is to take a look at“where the sys­tem fail­ures that still ex­ist are and how we can best sort those out.”

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