Al-Ahram Weekly Online   13 - 19 May 2010
Issue No. 998
Sky High
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Latin wings

The Star Alliance is expanding its network, taking its member airlines to South America, reports Amirah Ibrahim

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Twenty six airlines gather today in Sao Paolo, Brazil to launch a new operation to the Latin American continent that would link it to Europe, Africa and Asia. TAM Airlines is due to be announced as a full member at the Star Alliance, allowing all other members to benefit from its strong network in South America.

TAM Airlines is the biggest Brazilian airline and the Southern Hemisphere's busiest airline in terms of fleet, passengers enplaned and flights operated. It is headquartered in the city of So Paulo, and operates scheduled services to destinations within Brazil, as well as international flights to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

Established in 1961, the airline at present operates a fleet of 134 aircraft of different classes, in addition to 76 aircraft under delivery. As of April 2010, TAM's passenger fleet consists of 128 Airbus, including the Jumbo A340, and seven Boeing including B777-300.

According to the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC), between January and December 2009, TAM had 46 per cent of the domestic and 87 per cent of the international market shares in terms of passengers/km, and in relation to the same period in 2008, it increased its share in the domestic market 6.5 per cent and in the international market 14 per cent. In March 2010, its shares were 42 per cent for the domestic and 85 per cent for the international markets. In both periods TAM was ranked first among Brazilian airlines.

"It is such a great moment not only for the new member airline but for all of us, the other members," commented EGYPTAIR chairman, Hussein Massoud. "Whenever a new member steps into the group every airline starts to re-evaluate its network and operation to see how the new member will be of benefit to its operation," Massoud added, as he was heading to Sao Paolo to attend the TAM-Star Alliance meeting.

In July 2009, EGYPTAIR hit a record when it managed to fulfill Star membership requirements within ten months instead of 18 months as scheduled. It occupies seat number 22 among member airlines.

The national carrier's network at present has no service to any South America destinations.

"I have no doubt that we will benefit out of having such an opportunity to fly our clients to South America, even just one leg of their journey, but using one ticket," Massoud indicated. He explained that Star Alliance provides its members with possible opportunities in light of new changes in the network and fleet which in turn enable them to make the necessary modifications to operation.

"TAM has a strong operation in South America. It also operates flights to five destinations in Europe including Heathrow international. What we are going to do is that to negotiate a code share agreementwith the new member that allows both airlines to operate flights using their fleet and networks," explained Massoud. "We have a strong network in Africa, Middle East and Arab region. We also plan to boost our operation to Far East. Thus we work to attract transit traffic through Cairo to Europe, North America and now to South America," he added.

Star Alliance figures show that it has 26 airlines from all over the world in its membership. It operates a fleet of 3,993 aircraft which has carried a record 603.5 million passengers. The alliance's network covers 1077 destinations in 175 countries. Sales revenues according to financial statistics showed the member airlines have hit $171.22 billion.

The alliance has created a new concept to sell dozens of destinations for one ticket, through which the world is divided into main zones -- Europe, Far East Middle East, Africa and North America. Each zone has its air pass which allows passengers to fly through all countries within the same zone with one ticket.

For instance, with Africa Airpass, passengers can choose from a variety of destinations across Africa and take between three and ten flights. It's the perfect way to discover the diversity that this fascinating continent has to offer -- seeing more than the average tourist, while paying much less than the average fare. Flights are operated by South African Airways (SA), EGYPTAIR (MS) and Brussels Airlines (SN).

Under the alliance umbrella, and through a code share agreement between EGYPTAIR and SA, both airlines coordinate with each other to act as a feeder for the other. "We have a strong network in Europe and Asia as well as the middle east, while SA has an effective network in the southern half of the continent," Massoud concluded.

Passengers can travel to all these countries with one ticket: Egypt, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi, Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Eritrea, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Botswana, Ethiopia, Algeria, Lesotho, Madagascar, Sudan, Swaziland, Tunisia and Liberia.

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