The consolidation of the airline industry has many faces


Alliances and cooperation agreements in international passenger traffic were expanded again in the financial year. International joint ventures are becoming ever more important alongside the global airline alliances. Following the successful operation since 2010 of the transatlantic joint venture Atlantic++, established by Lufthansa, Air Canada, Continental and United, in summer 2011 the joint venture Japan+between Lufthansa and ANA was also approved by the Japanese competition authorities. It has been possible to book joint flights between Europe and Japan since February 2012, and the joint venture will commence in April 2012. American Airlines and Japan Airlines, both members of the oneworld alliance, started a transpacific joint venture in April 2011. The airline alliance Skyteam welcomed new members China Eastern Airlines and China Airlines in the summer. Ethiopian Airlines joined Star Alliance in December.

At the same time, tough competition, with considerable overcapacities in some markets, high kerosene prices and economic uncertainty weighed increasingly on the airline sector. Many companies cannot withstand this pressure on their own. AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, applied for creditor protection under Chapter 11 of the American Bankruptcy Code in late November 2011, due to financial problems as a result of high fuel and staff costs and a high gearing. Flight operations are to be kept running, however. Other airlines such as TAP and Air Berlin sought respectively found strategic investors, the latter with success. The difficult market and competitive environment has already led to formal or de facto nationalisations, as exemplified by the case of Air Baltic in December 2011.

In long-haul traffic, airlines are increasingly having to compete worldwide against carriers from the Gulf region. Their growth is unbroken and bears no relation to developments in their home markets. South America on the other hand is a genuine growth market. The LATAM airline group formed recently by LAN and TAM is currently exploring its options for joining an airline alliance. It is likely to be either oneworld or Star Alliance, where LAN (oneworld) and TAM (Star Alliance) are still members. In December the Skyteam member Delta Airlines took a minority stake of 3 per cent in the Brazilian airline Gol.

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