On the Subject of Alliances

By | October 2, 2009
In this photo released by Virgin America, Virg...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Airline Route Updates has a comprehensive list of the new JetBlueLufthansa codeshare, found here. The flight numbers will be between LH8500 and 8700 and cover both Boston and New York-JFK routes. Booking are already open for service on or after November 1st.

Also effective today, South African Airlines will interline with Virgin America, permitting travelers to connect seamlessly between the two airlines. “The interline partnership offers a new choice for SAA guests to connect at New York (JFK) and Washington, D.C. (IAD) to several other Virgin America destinations, including San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Las Vegas (LAS), San Diego (SAN) and Seattle (SEA). Virgin America and SAA are located in the same terminals in New York (JFK) and Washington, D.C. (IAD), making connections for guests as simple and seamless as possible. South African Airways offers daily, nonstop service from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg (JNB). From Washington, D.C., South African Airways provides direct service to Johannesburg (JNB) via a quick stop in Dakar (DKR).”

As fellow aviation blogger Dan Webb, whom our Editor had the pleasure of meeting in person recently commented, the announcements can’t make United very happy. Two alliance partners of theirs, South African and Lufthansa, have taken up with the LCC competition.

But such alliances make sense. Airlines working together to sell tickets. There are two ways to do so. The traditional through fare and sector-by-sector(aka broken) fares.

  • Through fares – One contract rate from origin to destination, issued by one carrier, with the second carrier being paid a percentage.
  • Sector-by-Sector – Each sector of the trip is priced independently. So, each airline files its own fares, which are totaled into the total ticket value.

Each has its own obligations. A through fare means the airline is obligated to transport you from Point A to Point B, and may omit, amend, or adjust Point C(the connecting point) at it or your option in order to accommodate you. A sector-by-sector fare obligates Airline A to take you from Point A to B, Airline B to take you from B to C, and does not obligate either airline to accept responsibility, by the strictest interpretation.

The sector-by-sector fare, which allows each carrier to sell tickets at their rate instead of one set by another carrier, is the fairest for the airline. But in the interests of mutual cooperation, the airlines selling these tickets should agree to support each other in the event of schedule change without charge to the passenger as if they were through fares. Most passengers can’t tell the difference, and expect if they buy one ticket, that it means they will be taken care of. The last thing that is good for business is a passenger being stuck in the middle of a dispute between two airlines, which happens too often.

Either way, alliances create a situation where airlines must do right by their mutual passengers. They are also great ways to offer the value-added service of booking service from Point A to Point B, and allow each airline to build its brand-name in a city they don’t serve and to generate revenue and fill seats.