Dubai: Major airline alliance SkyTeam wants to add India’s Jet Airways and Brazil’s Gol to its ranks as it looks to strengthen its global network, Chief Executive Perry Cantarutti told Gulf News on Tuesday.
SkyTeam, one of the three major airline alliances, does not have any members from India or Brazil, two countries where Cantarutti said the alliance could improve its position.
“Those would be the markets that would be at the top of our list for trying to find a member,” he told Gulf News at the SkyTeam lounge at Dubai International.
Jet Airways and Gol are “top candidates” to join the alliance because of existing bilateral relationships with its members, he said. Jet Airways has agreements with nine SkyTeam members and Gol has agreements with seven, according to Cantarutti.
SkyTeam, set up in 2000 as the last of three major global airline alliances to be established, has not added a member since 2014 when Indonesia’s Garuda joined. Its 20 members are from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, North America and South America.
Gol and Jet Airways have not joined any of the three major alliances and Gol was touted to join SkyTeam in 2003 after alliance member Delta took a stake in the Brazilian carrier. Jet Airways is a member of Etihad Airways Partners, a network of airlines partly owned by Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways. Though this does not necessarily mean it is excluded from joining one of the alliances.
Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive James Hogan has called the alliance model “fractured,” but Etihad has not pushed its equity airlines to leave the alliances. Alitalia is a member of SkyTeam and Air Berlin is a member of oneworld, one of the two other major alliances.
But despite Jet Airways and Gol being “top candidates,” Cantarutti said he is “not out recruiting members” and that there have been no discussions on them joining.
A spokesperson for Jet Airways told Gulf News by email it has no plans to join a global alliance "at this time." Gol did not respond to request to comment.
“We feel really good about the network we have,” Cantarutti said.
“Our focus is less on recruiting members and more on helping a better customer experience,” he said.
John Strickland, aviation expert and director of UK-based JLS Consulting, told Gulf News signing up Jet Airways and Brazil would "bring weight" to SkyTeam in the growing Indian and Latin American markets.
SkyTeam is also keeping a close eye on the Iranian market following the lifting of nuclear sanctions against the country this year. Alliance member Air France-KLM will resume flights to Tehran on Sunday after a eight year pause.
“The initial focus for aviation in Iran is going to be on getting the house in order but when the time is right and they start to set their sights a bit more broadly, we would be very interested with talking to carriers there,” Cantarutti said.
Gol told Gulf News on Wednesday it has no intentions of joining SkyTeam "for the moment."