Usually the world advances in small steps. But from time to time there are those leaps forward that take us to the next level - ideas that have the power to change an entire industry or even to touch everyone’s lives. In aviation, the 1950s saw the advent of jet airplanes that made the world shrink. In the 1970s the introduction of jumbo jets helped to make flying affordable for everybody. And ten years ago in 1997, it was the creation of the Star Alliance network that revolutionised the way people travel. Star Alliance is not only the first but the largest airline alliance in the world. With 16,000 departures per day and a combined fleet of nearly 2,800 airplanes, its 17 member airlines link 855 airports in 155 countries. The 407 million passengers of Star Alliance represent more than 27 per cent of the world’s air travel. Air China and Shanghai Airlines will join in 2007, complementing the alliance network in China. Turkish Airlines will follow in 2008, improving access to Central Asia and also providing more choice between Europe and Asia. Ten years after its creation there are only a few “white spots” left on the map of the alliance.
But as impressive as the numbers may be, sheer size has never been the main idea behind Star Alliance. The basis of this stunning success story is the realisation of the changing needs of travellers in a globalised world and the innovative way of serving them. Page 1 of 5
Page 2 of 5
Air travel in the global village
In the 1990s the world saw an unprecedented economic change. Along with the Berlin Wall, many other frontiers came down. Virtually overnight the world was full of new opportunities to travel and to do business. Suddenly it became possible to share work on a global scale and to build new business relationships from continent to continent. Tiny companies in small towns in Wisconsin, northern Norway or Posznan, Poland suddenly had business partners in places they had never heard of before.
At the same time the Internet created a global village, making communication easy, fast and inexpensive while facilitating globalisation. But because basically all business is social, technical means aren’t a substitute for meeting face-to-face. Working together is a matter of trust, and success is built on personal relationships — even more when the partners come from different cultures and speak different languages. So globalisation created travel patterns far beyond the traditional economic centres such as Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and Frankfurt.
For the airline industry, this created new business opportunities. Building a network to fit the new dimension of global mobility and link these new destinations would exceed the capabilities and resources of any single carrier. And even expanding the number of bilateral codeshare agreements, which already were in place between single carriers, wouldn’t be a realistic solution.
The answer the five CEOs of Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Thai Airways International and United Airlines gave to this challenge was novel and simple at the same time — a strategic airline alliance based on partnership and trust, on a common vision, shared values and above all the will to serve the needs of this new generation of business travellers in the best possible way. Star Alliance, which was founded on May 14, 1997 not only proved to be a trendsetter but stayed well ahead of those who embarked on similar projects.
Page 3 of 5
Fast connections are everything
The secret of this success is that...