Star Alliance Announces Their Newest Partner Airline

Star Alliance is the world’s largest airline alliance, though the last few years their expansion has slowed down a bit. Perhaps that’s largely because the importance of alliances as such has decreased, as airlines focus more on joint ventures and strategic partnerships.

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It has been about two years since we’ve seen the last airline join the Star Alliance, though it looks like they’ll finally have a new addition… with a twist.

Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines will be joining the Star Alliance as a Connecting Partner in 2017.

What is Juneyao Airlines?

Juneyao Airlines is based in Shanghai and has been around for about a decade. The airline has a fleet of ~55 narrowbody Airbus aircraft (split between A320s and A321s), and they fly exclusively to destinations within Asia. While they fly primarily within China, they also operate flights to Japan, South Korea, and Thailand.

Long term the airline wants to operate longhaul flights as well, so given the pace at which the Chinese aviation industry is growing, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened in the next couple of years.

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What is a Star Alliance Connecting Partner?

It’s interesting that Juneyao isn’t going to become a full Star Alliance member, but rather a “Connecting Partner,” which is a pretty new concept for the alliance. Star Alliance first announced the Connecting Partner concept late last year, with South African low cost carrier Mango being the first airline to participate in the concept. This option is intended for low cost and hybrid carriers.

Here’s how Star Alliance described this concept in the press release at the time:

Connecting Partners will be carefully assessed for their fit into the existing Star Alliance network. While these selected airlines need to comply and adhere to the high operating standard required by the Alliance, they will not become a member of the Alliance itself.

Customers 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. Moreover, Star Alliance Gold Card holders will enjoy a tailored set of privileges in line with the different product offerings of the individual Connecting Partner.

Connecting Partners will enter into bilateral commercial agreements with selected Star Alliance member airlines, which may include additional Frequent Flyer Programme based privileges.

So if I’m interpreting this correctly, travel on Connecting Partners in conjunction with a Star Alliance airline itinerary gets full Star Alliance benefits, while further privileges may be extended as part of bilateral agreements between individual airlines.

That’s certainly not as useful as an airline outright joining an alliance, though perhaps if Juneyao has some longhaul growth, they’ll eventually fully join the alliance. I suspect they don’t want to pay the full membership fee to be in the alliance, so by taking this path it will cost them less.

Bottom line

We really haven’t seen much growth with the major alliances lately, which is probably because airlines are instead focusing on strategic partnerships, like joint ventures. Star Alliance now introducing Connecting Partners is an interesting concept, though unfortunately it doesn’t sound like it will be all that seamless for passengers. The benefit of the major alliances should be that the experience is seamless and you get the same set of benefits on all carriers, though this concept adds some asterisks to that. Maybe with some longhaul growth Juneyao will eventually become a full Star Alliance member.

Comments

  1. would love to see them add virgin australia and allow them to compete more properly with qantas (doubt etihad would be keen on that though but singapore and air NZ may be)

  2. I personally think Star has far too many members and it really dilutes the brand. I dont think any members that dont fly long-haul should be part of the alliance like Aegean, Croatian, Adria etc.
    There’s dud members in any alliance (why on earth is RJ still a part of Oneworld after Qatar joined?!) so Star should seriously review whether players like Egyptair, Shenzen etc really add anything other than boasting that they have more destinations than Oneworld.

  3. Another horror airlines will join Star Alliance. Why do we need more Chinese airlines in Star alliance? We need a new member from Arabian Peninsula. I would be happy to have Oman Air as a member of *A. I still hope Star Alliance will kick out his CEO Mark Schwab. Under his work he created Star Alliance of one member and It’s Lufthansa.

  4. @Pani – although I said above Star is already too big I agree Oman Air would be an outstanding addition. They should clean house and remove some dead weight before adding any more members though.

  5. @ Ben – Actually thanks to Egyptair you can get great business class fares and earn a lot of Star Alliance mileage, and apart from Shenzhen, the only Star Alliance Chinese carrier is Air China. Air China doesn’t center on Shenzhen, so Shenzhen brings a lot of regional opportunities for Star Alliance. Agree on the Gulf carriers, though – Etihad and Emirates aren’t joining Star anytime soon so I guess they should go for Oman Air. It’s not like Star Alliance has anything to lose with more carriers. The more benefits they give other airlines, the more the airlines pay them in their fees, and the alliance just gets bigger and the numbers get better.

  6. The notion that an airline alliance can have “too many members”, which can dilute “the brand” is one that I summarily reject, and anyone playing the game also should because the more members an alliance has the better the redemption options, access to small or “obscure” cities, and, importantly, award availability!

    In any case, I am truly glad to see Shanghai return an airline to *A. From 2007 to 2010, Shanghai Airlines (FM) did a short stint as a *A member, before they left to join SkyTeam after they merged with China’s more dominant airlines, China Eastern Airlines, which was already a SkyTeam member. I memorably missed an AWARD flight on FM from Shanghai to HKG, after I mistakenly went to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG), when my FM flight was to leave out of the smaller and mostly domestic Shanghai Hongqiao “International” Airport (SHA). Fortunately, FM had more than one daily flight to HKG and I was booked on the next one leaving a couple of hours later.

    As one who redeems UA miles out of Shanghai every year, including this year, I was sorry to see FM leave the alliance because redeeming on the remaining *A member in China, Air China (CA), often means having to first fly to their hub at PEK or CTU, thereby extending what would be a short 1-2hr flight to several hours. So, this news is a great positive development.

    With respect to airline alliance members, the more, the merrier!

  7. @Alvin – why does more destinations mean a better alliance? If that’s the case why don’t they invite every airline in the world to join Star and they have 100 airlines flying to almost every city on earth? Because you have to have quality control. Members should either have an excellent product (like NH or BR), or a great network (like UA or LH), or ideally both (say, SQ). Regional airlines like Aegean or Adria have neither.
    And why does Star need more than 1 Chinese airline? No other country has two separate Star carriers. Air China is the natural choice. So what if Shenzen the city is not well represented in Star – there’s plenty of cities that don’t have a Star airline based there because that airline is not worthy of joining an alliance with quality control.
    @DCS – yes I agree its good to have more destinations but remember each time an airline joins suddenly all of their FF customers have access to the same seats you are trying to get. You might never use miles to book a flight on Juneyao (or whatever they are) airlines but their members will suddenly have access to your LH or OZ or AC seats. Using an extreme example, imagine if AA joined Star (and UA stayed). Sure you would get access to some new routes and destinations but you’d also have 100+ million AA members you’re suddenly competing with to use your miles.

  8. @DCS sez: “yes I agree its good to have more destinations but remember each time an airline joins suddenly all of their FF customers have access to the same seats you are trying to get.You might never use miles to book a flight on Juneyao (or whatever they are) airlines but their members will suddenly have access to your LH or OZ or AC seats….”

    That is the usual fear that people have when hotels or airlines are planning to merge, but it seldom materializes. At worst, there should be no change because mergers do not increase just the number of members. They also increase fleet size, number of hotels/rooms, routes, etc, in proportion to what the pre-merger programs had. Merged programs would usually restructure so that loads from the individual airlines/hotels are “balanced” across the merged entity, so that one can think of it as each airline or hotel getting bigger and adding more resources…

  9. LOL. I copied the entire line, including who @Ben was responding to and attributed to him (me) his comment!

    Ok. Above it should be, “@Ben sez: “yes…etc…”, rather than @ DCS sez 😉

  10. Great! They have really been lacking connections in and out of Shanghai since losing Shanghai Airlines. I look forward to seeing what the flight options will be, both at PVG and SHA. What will lounge access look like? Will starA still contract with the lounge in PVG?

  11. Before extending, should be nice to ask the members to apply the *A rules to their subsidiaries.
    Check what happens with Luxair (LH group) or Thai Smiles (Thai group)… : no *A gold rules at all (except for the cards of the airlines owner : miles and more senator or Thai gold in this exemple).

    What is really missing is an airline in the middle east (Oman air should be a very good choice) + in the ex Soviet Union (Aeroflot and S7 are already in an alliance, but Air Astana is not). Connecting in Russia is not that easy on *A, Utair (they have a nice C class in their new 737-800, better than most of the intra-european flights with real C class seats) could be a nice option (they have codeshare with TK already).

  12. Why on Earth would *A get snobby about adding new members? Don’t people know that United are a founding member? As long as Juneyao meet the criteria, then good luck to them and welcome aboard. They’ll add more options for Shanghai flights. Also, China is pretty big both in population and geography, so it makes sense to have more than one member from PRC. If people are worried about excessive *A members, then some of the smaller European airlines would have to be getting nervous.

    As for the deal itself, it seems that there are no points for HO flights, as far as I can tell? Also, am I reading it right that *G benefits will only be honoured if the HO flight is part of a single ticket itinerary with a full *A member? And does this “Connecting partner” mean a plan towards HO becoming a full member in the nearish future?

  13. Is it really an alliance or just a group of loosely affiliated carriers, often with conflicting/overlapping and competing interests? The website is abysmal, woeful, laughable relative to the others: Skyteam easily the best, Oneworld not great and Star behind by a country mile: dead links, unclear information, no consistency in policy ( eg luggage allowance ).
    The individual carriers simply could not care less about elite members of the other airlines: asking for water from the moon to expect something from Then when things go wrong.
    They might want to focus on getting some quality systems in place to support the passengers of existing alliance members rather than expand. Just hopeless and getting worse rather than better.

  14. As a Star Alliance Gold member I was unable to receive any benefits flying Juneyao Airlines from Shanghai to Dalian even though they were a code share flight with Air China, a full member of Star Alliance. I was turned away from both lounges.

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