The Star Alliance is looking at following SkyTeam in offering a partnership platform for low-cost and hybrid carriers. Star sees the new platform, which would fall short of full membership but provide a model for selected LCCs to work with members, improving coverage in key markets.

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Star has started to court Brazilian LCC Azul and Indian LCC IndiGo to join the potential programme, which would facilitate connections with participating Star members. Star has been trying to find a solution for India since 2011, when efforts to bring in Air India as a planned new member were suspended, while earlier this year Brazil’s largest carrier, TAM, began the process of transitioning from Star to oneworld.

But Star’s plan for a hybrid and LCC platform is controversial. Some Star members are against the concept of bringing in LCCs, fearing it could water down the alliance’s offering. Star’s pursuit of Azul is particularly controversial as at the same time the alliance has begun working at bringing in full-service carrier Avianca Brazil.

SkyTeam Was the First to Open up to LCCs

SkyTeam in 2012 became the first and so far only alliance to unveil plans for a hybrid/LCC partnership platform. The SkyTeam offering does not constitute membership in the alliance but provides an option for members to affiliate and partner with a selected LCC.

See related report: SkyTeam plans new partnership platform to attract hybrids and LCCs, especially in Brazil and India

SkyTeam plans to soon start trialling its LCC partnership platform with Canada’s WestJet in Vancouver. SkyTeam Connect is designed to facilitate connections with several members in a particular market. The intention is not for the affiliated LCC to work with all members but only those carriers interested in participating – typically members which serve the selected market.

All six SkyTeam carriers that serve Vancouver are participating. If successful, the product could be extended to other Canadian hub airports. But it is not expected to include the entire WestJet network.

With Canada’s only main full-service carrier, Air Canada, in Star, there are limited options for offline connections for airlines outside Star. WestJet is a logical candidate for an alliance’s LCC platform as it has hybridised and has already started codesharing or interlining with several foreign carriers, recognising the opportunities to work with non-Star carriers and improve yields.

SkyTeam Connect is not exclusive so WestJet can also continue to work with oneworld members and unaligned carriers. It could even potentially become affiliated with oneworld if the alliance decides to follow SkyTeam and now Star in developing its own LCC/hybrid platform.

The new Star platform will likely be similar to SkyTeam Connect. The idea is to bring in as partners LCCs and hybrid carriers which are not interested in joining the alliance but would add value by providing connections and feed.

For more on this story, read the full CAPA analysis here.

This story originally appeared on CAPA – Centre for Aviation, a Skift content partner.

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Photo Credit: Staff from Star Alliance airlines recently welcomed EVA Air to the Star Alliance family. Courtesy Star Alliance.