Star Alliance has announced the launch of its "Connecting Partner" programme, allowing low-cost carriers (LCCs) and hybrid airlines to connect to the network.
South African carrier Mango will be the first airline to implement the new model.
Under the programme, passengers will have access to more destinations served by Star Alliance member airlines.
However, it appears that Easyjet and Ryanair are not in the running.
Questioned by journalists just prior to the announcement, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said that while discussions with Easyjet about providing connecting traffic to Lufthansa are taking place (see news, September 22), there is no imminent announcement and talks are continuing.
Mark Schwab, CEO of Star Alliance, said: "We are not talking to Easyjet and Ryanair."
But he added: "We see a definite trend of convergence between the traditional full service and low-cost business models in the airline industry. At the same time, our customers are telling us that they need access to markets where we do not yet provide ideal coverage.
"In many cases, network carriers are not in a position to fill this gap and hence working with future Connecting Partners will allow us to provide an extended network to our travellers."
Star Alliance said that Connecting Partners will be carefully assessed in order to fit into the existing network.
While selected airlines need to comply and adhere to the high operating standard required by the alliance, they will not become a member of Star Alliance itself.
Passengers travelling on an itinerary which includes a transfer between a Star Alliance member airline and a Connecting Partner will be offered alliance benefits such as passenger and baggage through check-in.
Star Alliance Gold Card holders will benefit from a tailored set of privileges in line with the different product offerings of the individual Connecting Partner. In addition, they will earn miles for the onward flight on the LCC or hybrid airline.
Connecting Partners will enter into bilateral commercial agreements with selected Star Alliance member airlines, which may include additional Frequent Flyer Programme-based privileges.
Schwab said: "We are delighted to be working with Mango as we marry traditional and low-cost or hybrid airlines for the first time in our alliance's history.
"The airline's innovative and progressive style makes it an ideal candidate for launching our new Connecting Partner concept. We aim to have first customers using this new offer as of the third quarter of 2016."
Subscribers can read Meeting In The Middle, a feature in our current issue that deals with the phenomenon of low-cost carriers talking to full-service airlines about feeding their long-haul networks, here.
Star Alliance member airlines are: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Avianca, Brasil, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, Thai and United.