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The head of International Airlines Group has insisted that it could prosper from American Airlines’ potential involvement in consolidation of the US carrier market.
Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive, told the Financial Times that the Oneworld global alliance – which the group’s UK and Spanish airlines belong to – should be able to recruit Delta Air Lines if it combined with American, already a Oneworld member.
It emerged in January that Delta, a leading member of the rival SkyTeam carrier alliance, is evaluating the case for bidding for AMR, American’s parent company.
AMR filed for bankruptcy last November, and the possibility of it participating in industry consolidation after its planned restructuring has created uncertainty about the future shape of the global airline alliances.
Asked if he thought a Delta-American entity could be persuaded to choose the Oneworld alliance instead of SkyTeam, Mr Walsh said: “Personal view – most definitely.
“It is no secret that Air France-KLM needs to embark on some serious restructuring. They are facing a much bigger challenge than any of the other major European carriers through 2012, 2013, so ... I have no doubt whatsoever that IAG would represent a much more attractive partner than Air France-KLM.”
Air France-KLM reports its 2011 results on Thursday, and analysts are expecting an operating loss of €263m. In January the airline – the most leveraged of the three large European flag carriers – announced a new restructuring programme. Delta has an important transatlantic joint venture with Air France, under which the two airlines collaborate to provide services between Europe and the US. IAG has a similar joint venture with American.
Analysts are divided as to whether regulators would allow a merger between Delta and American, given that the combined entity could become the dominant US carrier. But they said that if regulatory hurdles were overcome, any Delta-American entity would have to choose between the Air-France and IAG joint ventures, and between the SkyTeam and Oneworld alliances
Andrew Lobbenberg, analyst at RBS, said that IAG had a “good chance” of persuading a Delta-American entity to choose Oneworld over SkyTeam. “IAG has also therefore got a good chance of drawing the Delta-American entity into its transatlantic joint venture,” he added.
But Jarrod Castle, analyst at RBS, said that he believed a Delta-American entity would be most likely to stay with SkyTeam.
Several analysts said that American may be more likely to pursue a merger with US Airways, the fifth-largest US carrier, than Delta, partly because the regulatory hurdles would be less difficult to overcome.