Irish carrier Aer Lingus, one of the first members of the alliance oneworld, has announced its desire to pull out of the group, which is headed by British Airways and American Airlines. "Alliance membership has inevitably become less relevant for the airline over time, with an increasing number of customers availing of our new direct services at low fares," Aer Lingus Chief Executive Dermot Mannion said.
Why is Aer Lingus leaving? There are a few reasons. The first is that it's getting more expensive to be in an alliance. Malev Hungarian, Royal Jordanian and JAL are all joining oneworld, and it's not cheap to integrate each others' computer systems.
But the more important reason is the fundamental shift in the carrier's strategy. It was still a full-service airline aimed primarily at business travelers when it joined oneworld back in 2000. But times have changed, especially after the events of 9/11, and Aer Lingus became a low-fare airline. Cabin services are now different from most of the other oneworld carriers.
On the operational side, the amount of passengers on Aer Lingus that came from other oneworld airlines has fallen to about 6 per cent. Aer Lingus has said, however, that the airline would continue to seek ties with some existing partners, but outside of the alliance.
I think this is a good move for Aer Lingus, which has reported profits since 2001, when it came close to filing for bankruptcy. It has certainly learned (and benefited) from the idea that it is good to change when the market dictates change. Aer Lingus changed its business model after 9/11 and has seen positive results. Leaving oneworld, then, seems like a logical further step.