Seamless airline concept frays

WHILE alliances between major airlines are on the increase, the promise of ‘seamless servicing’ to buyers has not yet been met, says Australian Business Travel Association media officer Carole Murphy.

She said major alliances such Qantas and Cathay Pacific are delivering sophisticated marketing campaigns, but “the jury is still out” on whether such arrangements are of significant benefit to the consumer.

“At present, buyers can clearly see the benefits for the airlines and the bias is much more on that side of the fence,” Ms Murphy said.

“They can see the gloss and trimmings – but the majority of benefits to the traveller are currently quite superficial.

“The biggest concern is that the emergence of two or three major global airline alliances will impinge on the benefits of market competition.

“For the buyer, the primary long term concern is competitive pricing.”

Ms Murphy said a major issue within the travel industry alliance forum is code-sharing.

“This is good in situations such as flights from Hong Kong to Singapore which are characteristically high-traffic,” she said.

“The agreements offer convenience for travellers in terms of greater flight and destination choice.

“However, some travellers are finding that they buy a Qantas ticket and wind up on another airline that they may not view to be comparable.

“The other question with code share agreements is ‘who takes responsibility when something goes wrong?’.

“A good example of this is the recent Swiss Air disaster which had North West Airlines code-sharing passengers on board.

“While there is no official procedure for this situation, Swiss Air have paid the compensation,” she said.

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