Oneworld Wins

It’s official, JAL is staying inside Oneworld and the folks at American Airlines can relax on that front.


The only thing that surprises me about this announcement is that it was done this quickly. I thought it would take a month or more for the airline to come around. That said, it was a smart move for two reasons.


First, the last thing JAL needs to be doing right now is agonizing over an alliance. Their problems were not going to be solved by being in the right alliance. They were going to get solved when the executive leadership started focusing on cutting jobs, slashing costs and rationalizing the routes. The new JAL Chairman and new president apparently decided to move that issue of their plates and get on with the real work.


Second, it’s a smart move because there were big anti-trust issues involved with a lashup with SkyTeam and Delta. The US government signaled as much a couple of weeks ago when it told Japanese negotiators for the new open skies treaty that approval for anti-trust agreements already applied for was not a “done deal”. By staying with Oneworld, JAL gets to preserve its alliance infrastructure, benefits from revenue guarantees for the next few years and has the time to focus on restructuring itself rather than wasting their time on fighting an anti-trust battle in the US.


One thing that has become clear from this fight. American Airlines has emerged as the leader of Oneworld. The other major partners, Cathay, QANTAS and British Airways, didn’t really step up in the way you would expect of such a partnership. Yes, this was a fight based in the US but those 3 airlines stood to benefit but didn’t really work terribly hard to win the fight on behalf of AA. Look for AA to become the Oneworld leader and the airline that starts setting the direction for Oneworld for the future.


That could be good or bad. Good because Oneworld really hasn’t had much leadership from any airline to date. However, American Airlines has to set a direction that other airlines want to follow and one that benefits everyone in the alliance. If they don’t take up the leadership reigns, look for Oneworld to melt away in 5 years or less.


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