OneWorld filled a significant gap in its global network this month with its acceptance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS)–Southeast Asia’s second largest carrier after Singapore Airlines–into the alliance. By the end of this year, OneWorld plans to fill further geographic holes in the Middle East and South Asia with the admission of Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines.
But for MAS itself, membership in OneWorld constituted a key part of its business recovery plan launched at the end of 2011. According to the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, the addition of MAS will boost the stature of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur as a hub and give the airline more incentive to improve its premium products and services.
“The time is right for joining the alliance,” said MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, as the government-owned carrier engages in “aggressively re-fleeting” with a mix of Airbus A330-300s and A380-800s on order, plus some Boeing 737-800s. Yahya wants OneWorld carriers such as British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Japan Air Lines to take advantage of connecting services from MAS’s secondary hubs at Penang and Kota Kinabalu.
Last year, OneWorld withdrew its invitation to India’s Kingfisher Airlines to join the alliance after financial woes forced the carrier to suspend international flights. “We haven’t issued any more invitations…[however], we are looking seriously at a lot of things, and China is one of them,” OneWorld CEO Bruce Ashby told AIN at a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur in late January. Ashby said the alliance would consider accepting more carriers from Southeast Asia, citing “no magic number” for airline membership. “What we care about is quality,” he said. However, Ashby dismissed speculation that OneWorld has actively sought to recruit budget carriers. In his view, low-fare carriers would likely find it hard to justify the investment required to offer the standard and scope of service required.