CAPE TOWN: US Airways will likely be an affiliate member of the oneworld alliance before its merger with oneworld’s American Airlines is complete. The affiliate membership, as opposed to full membership, is driven primarily by branding and marketing simplicity.
The merger is subject to regulatory approval, expected soon after a 15 August hearing, American CEO Tom Horton told the APEX editor’s blog at this week’s IATA AGM in Cape Town. Within about 18 months of the merger closing, US Airways as a brand and operating license will disappear and the carrier will be integrated into American and its oneworld alliance.
But during that interim period prior to the brand disappearing, US Airways expects that it will be an affiliate member of the oneworld alliance. This will allow the carrier and oneworld to benefit from each other as American and US Airways are progressively integrated.
Affiliate membership differs in that an airline’s logo is not incorporated on branding material, says oneworld VP corporate communications Michael Blunt. While Blunt cautions that the alliance has yet to make a formal announcement about US Airways’ membership status during its interim period, he believes affiliate membership is logical.
Affiliate membership gives the airline, alliance and passengers the full range of benefits, such as status recognition, mileage earn and burn as well as lounge access. But affiliate membership means oneworld will not have to contend with later publicity that US Airways is “leaving” the alliance once its merger is complete. Nor will oneworld have to undergo extensive re-branding to incorporate the US Airways logo only to re-do the branding once US Airways leaves shortly thereafter.
“Do you introduce a brand for what may be one year or 18 months? The downside is after 18 months that brand sort of disappears, which means you have the cost of updating all of the collateral, the branding, the signage,” Blunt says. “There’s a big cost.”
There are also differences at a governing level of the alliance but Blunt declines to comment on differing membership fees for an affiliate versus full member.
Oneworld has about 30 affiliate members, including those that are associated with a full member, such as American’s American Eagle, British Airways’ Comair, Iberia’s Iberia Express, Cathay Pacific’s Dragonair and Qantas’ QantasLink. Those affiliates are typically represented at meetings by their parent and do not have to use their more limited management to attend alliance meetings.
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