By Nisthar Cassim in Beijing, China
SriLankan Airlines on Monday propelled itself into the industry’s major league with the mega announcement of its entry in to the world’s leading quality airline alliance oneworld.
Billed as the biggest-ever boost for the national carrier, the admission to oneworld alliance by next year will result in unprecedented benefits for SriLankan as well as for post-war rebounding economy and tourism.
The election as a oneworld member-designate along with the tag as one of Asia’s fastest growing airline in post-war rebounding Sri Lanka was announced to global industry and media in Beijing as the Chief Executives of the alliance’s member airlines gathered for a meeting of the group’s Board on the sidelines of IATA’s 2012 AGM and world air transport summit.
oneworld enables its members to offer their customers more services and benefits than any airline can provide on its own. These include a broader route network, opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles and points across the combined oneworld network and more airport lounges oneworld also offers more alliance fares than any of its competitors.
Comprising 12 of the world’s best and popular airlines, oneworld is the current holder of more international awards for airline alliances than any of its competitors.
Members include American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Air Berlin, Finnair, Iberia, LAN, Royal Jordanian and Russia’s S7 Airlines and around 20 affiliates. Malaysian Airlines will be joining later this year.
When SriLankan becomes part of oneworld, its customers will gain access to this truly global network.
The alliance partners serve 850 destinations in over 150 countries with a combined fleet of almost 2,500 aircraft operating some 9,000 flights and carrying a million passengers daily, generating annual revenues of over $ 100 billion.
The 120 million frequent flyer cardholders of oneworld’s established airlines will be able to earn and redeem rewards when flying on SriLankan.
The deal will also give SriLankan Airlines frequent flyers especially FlySmiles cardholders, now over 200,000, access to over 550 airport lounges and its network will be covered by oneworld’s market leading range of alliance fares.
SriLankan already code shares with oneworld member designate Malaysia Airlines and on Monday in Beijing announced agreements in principle to code share also with oneworld partners Royal Jordanian and Russia’s largest domestic carrier S7 Airlines. Opportunities for increasing the alliance’s coverage of the country will be further explored as SriLankan prepares to join.
“The agreement with SriLankan Airlines adds even more value for our customers who have made oneworld the first choice airline alliance for the world’s frequent international travellers. We look forward to welcoming SriLankan to oneworld,” oneworld Governing Board Chairman Tom Horton who is also Chairman and Chief Executive of American Airlines told international journalists gathered in Beijing for the IATA summit.
oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby said: “In SriLankan Airlines oneworld is pleased to welcome a high quality airline that will enhance oneworld’s network and product offerings in one of the world’s fastest growing regions for the air travel demand.”
Cathay Pacific has come forward to serve as SriLankan Airlines sponsor in joining oneworld, supporting the airline through its alliance implementation program. Its Chief Executive John Slosar said: “SriLankan Airlines is a fine candidate for oneworld with its growing reputation for customer service mirroring oneworld’s own focus and with Sri Lanka’s economy growing faster than at any other time in nation’s history, the timing is right. Cathay Pacific is delighted to be serving as its sponsor in joining oneworld.”
SriLankan Airlines CEO Kapila Chandrasena said: “As an airline highly focused on quality service we are extremely proud to have been invited to join the highest quality alliance with the best airline partners offering a global network that best complements our own. We look forward to completing all joining requirements as soon as possible.”
He said that the move and resultant best practices would strengthen SriLankan Airlines operations as well as financials.
Chandrasena also shared with international media a host of key achievements of Sri Lanka following the end of the war three years ago, which in turn will benefit oneworld members too. Among them were 8.3% economic growth, doubling of per capita income, inbound and outbound travel increasing by over 50%, over 30% rise in tourist arrivals along with target of four million tourists by 2020 as well as development of Mattala Airport and other infrastructure.
Journalists were told that SriLankan Airlines has virtually doubled in size since peace returned to Sri Lanka three years ago and plans further substantial expansion to its fleet and network in the next few years.
It now operates a fleet of 21 aircraft and carried 3.5 million passengers last year between its Colombo base and 34 destinations in 22 countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including oneworld hubs Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow Domodedovoa and Tokyo Narita along with Bangkok and Singapore.
Besides flying as Sri Lanka’s flag carrier, it is also the largest international carrier serving the neighbouring Maldives and with a significant presence also in southern India.
oneworld aims to be the first choice airline alliance for the world’s frequent international travellers. It brings together some of the best and biggest names in the airline business – Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and S7 Airliens and around 20 affiliates including Austria’s NIKI, American Eagle, Dragonair, LAN Argentina, LAN Ecuador and LAN Peru.
oneworld is the current holder of more international awards for airline alliances than any of its competitors including Star Alliance having a much larger base of 25 airlines. However oneworld was named the Best Airline Alliance by Global Traveller in GT Tested Reader Survey 2011 Awards for the second year running, the World’s Leading Airline Alliance in the 2011 World Travel Awards, for the ninth consecutive year and the Best Airline Alliance 2011 in Australian Business Traveller’s debut awards.