American Airlines will be focusing its efforts on developing new joint-business agreements with partner carriers in Asia-Pacific.
The carrier recently made a US$200 million equity investment in Chinese carrier China Southern, and will begin codesharing before the end of the year.
According to Joe Mohan, vice president of alliances and partnerships, a wider agreement could also be on the cards.
“If we could accomplish, at some point, an open-skies agreement, then we would be very interested in doing a joint-business agreement with China Southern,” he said.
President Robert Isom agreed: “China is critical for business travellers, and it’s critical for leisure travellers as well, and it can be a part of American’s network, but in the long run to really make it successful, it can’t just be a point in the US to a single point in China,” Isom said. Opportunities in Guangzhou, a major hub for China Southern, may also be looked into down the road, Isom added, though the airline currently has no concrete plans to launch new routes to the city.
American Airlines’ expansion in Asia-Pacific also will be extending to mobile payments, particularly those popular in mainland China. “We’ve been talking with Fliggy from Alipay and we hope to release that in 2018,” said Alison Taylor, senior vice president, global sales.
“Also, we have a project underway with regards to We Chat, which can be a payment platform as well.”
President Isom revealed American Airlines will also be reapplying for approval of its planned joint-business agreement with fellow Oneworld carrier Qantas, which was blocked by the US Department of Transportation last November.
According to Mohan, joint business agreements are beneficial to travellers as it means greater standardisation of services and products across the carriers involved. “What you see in joint businesses is there’s more of a homogenisation of product. That’s not as common with just a codeshare, so I think there’s more incentive for both airlines to make sure our products are consistent and the best in class.”
Mohan cites the airline’s existing agreements with British Airways and Japan Airlines as examples, noting that British Airways had a better product on-board and with their club lounges when it entered into an agreement with them. Meanwhile JAL felt American Airlines could’ve done a better job with its food, offering more Japanese options, and that its flight staff could be more familiar with the Japanese language and culture.
American Airlines is also launching a new Los Angeles-Beijing service, which will take off on November 5 using the airline’s three-class B787-9 Dreamliner.