The 'one-roof' concept pursued by global airline alliances for ticketing and
passenger handling activities is much harder to replicate when it comes to joint tendering for ramp services, discovers Richard Rowe
In April, four oneworld alliance members relocated to a purpose-built passenger facility at Zurich Airport in what was one of the alliance's largest co-location exercises in its four-year history. Three of the oneworld carriers that serve the Swiss city - American Airlines, Finnair, and Iberia -came together on April 1 with British Airways (BA) following a day later. The four airlines, which between them operate a total of 34 flights on most days to and from Zurich, now share 12 custom-built check-in desks and eight ticket counters. All the new facilities bear the logos of the four carriers and the oneworld insignia. The opportunity came about thanks to the latest phase in Zurich Airport's ongoing expansion and the alliance members' ability to leverage their bulk purchasing power to gain significant cost and facility advantages. It is the same bulk purchasing power that has seen Star Alliance carriers and Aeroports de Paris agree to transform Terminal 1 at CDG into a Star Alliance facility and 'mini-hub'. The agreement envisages all Star carriers operating at CDG moving under one roof once extensive upgrades and renovation work have been completed in 2005. A similar concourse is also in the works at Miami. These moves highlight just how far alliances have progressed since their initial formation and focus on marketing; today, as market conditions change and alliance members fly to more destinations, those roles have evolved to include detailed network planning and joint procurement strategies.
Oneworld was the first alliance to establish a central management unit when it unveiled the Vancouver-based oneworld Management Company (oMC) in May 2000. Led by Managing Partner Peter Buecking, previously Director of Sales and Marketing at Cathay Pacific, the oMC manages activity across the alliance together with working groups drawn from senior executives representing each member airline.
The sharing of facilities by oneworld members at Zurich is replicated at some 25 other airports around the world. At Amsterdam Schiphol, for example, BA, Iberia, and Finnair share check-in, baggage services and airport ticket desks in a specially designated part of the terminal.
Similarly, at Frankfurt, BA, and Qantas share overall passenger facilities, with other oneworld carriers - Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, and LanChile - co-located alongside them. Elsewhere in Germany, at Hamburg, all the on-line alliance members - Aer Lingus, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, and Qantas - share overall passenger terminal facilities. Meanwhile, across much of the Far East, BA, and Qantas share virtually all passenger terminal facilities, with other oneworld carriers also sharing at various points. At Bangkok, for example, Cathay and Finnair also share their check-in and airport ticket desk facilities.
According to Michael Blunt, VP oneworld Public Relations, this kind of consolidation was a natural step as members turned to the alliance to help them reduce costs when the market first began to soften some three years ago. Of course, the events of 9/11 accelerated that need dramatically.
"We have always been proactive in terms of helping member airlines' efficiency and had a very active procurement group from the very beginning," explains Blunt. "Members knew that oneworld could provide the kinds of services and cost benefits that they could not achieve on their own."
As such, oneworld members have explored joint purchasing initiatives that cover everything from small, in-flight items to more substantial requirements such as aircraft spare parts.
Despite its complexities, ground handling has also been a crucial area of cooperation, with oneworld developing tools to evaluate best practice when sourcing suppliers.