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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

Report: Star Alliance announces new CEO, new baggage technology

Star Alliance (l-r): Jeffrey Goh, Mark Schwab, Air Canada CEO & CEB chairman Calin Rovinescu

Star Alliance has named Jeffrey Goh as its new chief executive. The global airline alliance announced the appointment at its annual chief executive board (CEB) meeting in Zurich on June 4.

Goh, currently COO and General Council at Star, will take up the role in January 2017.

Current CEO Mark Schwab also told delegates that the Star Alliance board had approved multimillion-dollar investment in an “IT hub” for baggage. This, he said, will “enable us to much more closely co-ordinate the hundreds of millions of messages being transmitted across the Alliance” and improve baggage handling throughout the network, in areas such as short connection times, priority bags and reuniting mishandled luggage with passengers.

He also announced the board had agreed to develop a set of standards for airport automation processes, such as off-airport and self-service checking, self baggage tagging and automated document validation.

Schwab said the standards will reduce infrastructure requirements and handling costs at the 1,300 airports used by Alliance member airlines. He called the initiative an “industry first” and said it supports the IATA Fast Travel mandate, adding: “As we represent around a quarter of the world’s scheduled airline services, we believe we can contribute to the reduction of operation complexities – our members have benefited significantly from standardisation in other areas, and are determined to drive this process forward.”

Joint ventures
Schwab and Goh were asked about the impact of airline joint ventures (JVs). Goh said: “We recognise that JVs are a phenomenon that are not going to go away.

As an alliance we have to find a way to co-exist. We believe JVs have a place in the alliance – and vice-versa. Many of the JV partnerships come out of alliances.

"We have a role to play, particularly the technology support we can provide – there is a future and continuing relevance for us to support our JV partners."

Asked about joint ventures in the Pacific region, Schwab said: “It’s not the purview of Star Alliance to drive bilateral and multilateral discussions. But we do provide analytical background for our carriers – we are willing and able to provide this.” He said the ascending order of partnership value for carriers is: interline, codeshare, global alliance and JV. “We are going to see more and more JV’s around the world,” he added. “Our role is to facilitate conversation and fact-based discussions.”

With China likely to see 110 million citizens flying overseas this year, this “big and booming market” will continue to grow, he said, and he expects to see the Chinese authorities move to expand air transport agreements with other countries.

Low-cost carriers
Schwab also said work is progressing on Star’s Connecting Partner scheme – whereby low-cost carriers (LCCs) that feed full-service airlines can sign up for individual Star Alliance agreements, which include passenger and baggage through check-in services. The deals will also include benefits for Star Gold Card passengers, dependent on what privileges those LCCs offer. Schwab didn’t reveal numbers, but said “more than a handful” of budget and hybrid airlines are actively interested. South African low-cost airline Mango is due to become the first partner later this year.

Swiss showcase
The CEB event, held at the Park Hyatt Zurich, was hosted by Swiss, which showcased the new Bombardier CS100. CEO Thomas Klühr said: “It was a pleasure to welcome our fellow Star Alliance Chief Executive Board members to Zurich in this special year, having flown on a very special aircraft – the Bombardier C Series – for which Swiss is the launch customer. We are really looking forward to welcoming the CS100 into our fleet when we take delivery in a few weeks.”

Swiss also showcased artisanal, locally-produced food for the airline’s seasonal first-class menus, which feature star chefs from the country’s different Cantons.

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