It’s been a busy year south of the US border with all three alliances trying to make big land grabs in Latin America. So far, it looks like Star Alliance and oneworld are doing the best with Skyteam coming in a sad third. But these alliance loyalties are not static, and we could see more changes soon.
Let’s start with a map showing in which countries each alliance has a presence. This assumes that all announced members actually become members and it doesn’t include non-alliance partnerships. (For example, Gol may work with American but it’s not part of oneworld.)
Now let’s think about some of the major changes that altered this map in recent months. The list is enormous.
- oneworld member Mexicana went under, leaving Aeromexico’s Skyteam presence as the only one in Mexico
- Avianca and TACA merged and then decided to join Star Alliance
- Copa decided to join Star Alliance
- Aerolineas Argentinas decided to join Skyteam
- LAN acquired AIRES to give it a presence in Colombia
And that’s all pretty recent. Crazy stuff, right? So now we see Star Alliance having a stranglehold on Central America now that TACA and Copa will be in the same alliance. LAN rules the southwest of the continent with Avianca-TACA making strides in the northwest. And then there’s Brazil.
All eyes are on the most important market in Latin America these days. The big player in the country, TAM, is currently part of Star Alliance, but there is plenty of speculation about what will happen after its merger with LAN is completed. Will LAN come to Star? Will TAM go to oneworld? Or will the airlines both keep their respective alliances? My money is on the latter, if they can figure out a way to walk that tightrope.
Then again, Star has given itself a little cushion here. If TAM goes to oneworld, then Star will have the option of trying to help Avianca grow its Brazilian subsidiary, if it thinks it’s necessary. And LAN might want to bring TAM into oneworld to try to push off American’s growing relationship with Gol, right? This is better than a Mexican soap opera.
The one thing we can all agree on now is that Skyteam is mostly left out of this game. Sure, Aeromexico is a part of Skyteam but that’s far from where this fight is taking place. It’s a different market entirely. And Aerolineas Argentinas? Yeah, that’s one mess of an airline. As a government-owned entity, it’s not going anywhere, but it’s not exactly the alliance prize of Latin America.
Latin America is booming and there are a handful of very well run airlines down there (most prominently, LAN). This is going to be a fascinating area to watch as alliances look to cement relationships to give the best coverage in the region.