The Star Alliance Connecting Partner program is poised to welcome its second member to the alliance. The group announced that Thai Smile Airways, the wholly owned subsidiary of partner carrier Thai Airways, will be welcomed to the alliance this year. The application was approved during the meeting of the Star Alliance Board of Governors associated with the IATA Annual General Meeting in Seoul this weekend. The carrier is expected to complete the integration process by the end of 2019.
Three years after the introduction of the new programme, I am pleased to announce that THAI Smile is set to become the next Star Alliance Connecting Partner, which will support us in further strengthening our position as the leading airline alliance network.
The partnership with our first Connecting Partner, Juneyao Airlines, has exceeded our mutual expectations and we look forward to providing our customers with even more choice through the addition of the THAI Smile Airways offer. – Jeffrey Goh, Star Alliance CEO
The addition of Thai Smile reintegrates a number of routes back into the Star Alliance network that were previously operated by Thai Airways. Gaining 11 destinations on the alliance network map is helpful, but that is a secondary factor to the idea of recapturing passengers the group lost to the LCC networks. These are travelers not necessarily lost out of the Star Alliance “family” owing to the number of Star Alliance member carriers operating their own LCC arms.
Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh sees the passengers leaking out of the alliance with this market shift and hopes that the Connecting Partners offering can help offset that loss. “Many of our members have launched different cost platforms. This has led to many Star Alliance passengers now traveling outside the alliance. The connecting partner model is a strategy for us to recapture these customers, to bring them back and to give them the benefits they are used to with the Star Alliance program. It is an ongoing project for us.”
The program comes with costs, of course, but those costs are lower than as a full member. Juneyao Airlines believes the costs were worthwhile and Thai Smile is convinced it is worth trying. It remains to be seen if Eurowings, Peach, Scoot, ASKY or Air Busan (among others) would consider such a move.
As a Connecting Partner Thai Smile must integrate operations and benefits with at least three full alliance members. It currently has interline agreements with more than that, a fact that will ease the integration process. The efforts will further be eased by the relationship with its parent airline; Thai Airways can assist will lead the integration work for the carrier.
Thai Smile’s joining the alliance extends priority baggage handling, lounge access and premium check-in benefits for Star Alliance Gold elite status holders on connecting itineraries.
We are delighted that the Star Alliance Chief Executive Board has given the green light for THAI Smile to proceed with our proposal to become a Star Alliance Connecting Partner. This gives us the unique opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the strong Alliance network and at the same time pursue our own business model, providing superior air travel experience for the modern travellers at affordable prices. – Charita Leelayudth, Acting CEO, THAI Smile Airways