It is a group of individual airlines that work as a team.Today we’ll talk about the airline industry. I believe many of you have been to Incheon International Airport. Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and many foreign airline companies are nestled in the airport terminals, at which they have their own counters, giving customers boarding tickets and handling the passengers’ luggage. If you take a closer look at these counters, you can see signs that say “SkyTeam” or “Star Alliance.” These refer to allied groups of airline companies. There are three major worldwide airline alliance groups ― SkyTeam, Star Alliance and OneWorld Alliance.
Korean Air formed SkyTeam with AeroMexico, Air France and Delta Airlines in June 2000. Since then, Alitalia of Italy, CSA Czech Airlines of the Czech Republic, Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines of the United States and KLM of the Netherlands have joined the group. Aeroflot of Russia joined in April of this year, taking the total number of SkyTeam’s members to 10.
SkyTeam alliance members operate an average of 15,000 flights a day, serving an average of 373 million passengers a year. The members of SkyTeam also cooperate with each other in handling cargo, under the official name of “SkyTeam Cargo.”
Star Alliance was formed in 1997 when Air Canada, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Thai Airways and United joined together. Asiana Airlines joined in March 2003. The Star Alliance is currently the biggest alliance group among the three, and its 18 members serve more than 425 million passengers each year.
But why do airlines form such alliances? First you need to understand the characteristics of the airline industry. The airline industry can do better business when it has more planes and more flight routes. But in reality, it is not so easy to secure more flight routes. For one thing, it is too costly for one airline to have thousands of planes. But merging several airlines is not easy, either, because of heavy regulations imposed on the airline industry in each country. For instance, it takes quite a long time for an airline to get approval to open counters in foreign airports or to use the air traffic control systems there.
So, airlines came up with the idea of forming alliances with each other. One of the most common sales practices in such alliances is providing frequent flyer miles to customers using other airlines in the same group. For instance, Korean Air frequent flyers also get mileage when they use Air France or other alliance members. Once you accumulate enough mileage, you are eligible for free flights or accommodation at participating hotels.
Also, even if one airline does not have routes in certain regions, the company can still accommodate its passengers with the help of its alliance peers. For instance, Korean Air doesn’t have any routes in Latin America. If a Korean Air passenger wants to fly to Mexico, SkyTeam first sends the passenger to the United States on a Korean Air flight, then transfers them to AeroMexico to get to Mexico. The alliance members also share their airport lounges, allowing their passengers to use lounges belonging to any alliance company.
Forming an alliance also helps the airline’s businesses, as the alliance often purchases jet fuel and aircraft parts in bulk at cheaper prices. The airlines can also fill as many seats as possible by taking advantage of the alliance, as alliance members can search and make reservations for empty seats on other members’ flights.
Indeed, Korean Air has said the company earned $170 million last year through its affiliation with SkyTeam members.
Electronic ticketing taking over from traditional multi-sheet paper tickets
Those of you who have traveled outside Korea have probably had tickets comprising of several sheets of paper. But tickets like these are expected to disappear soon, because of electronic tickets.
An electronic ticket, or e-ticket, is an online version of a ticket that is issued when you present your identification at the airport. Air passengers can store their tickets on the Internet, so that they do not have to worry about losing them or having them stolen.
In the past, you could often see upset travelers at airports who had lost their tickets. Back then, if you lost your tickets, not only were you not allowed on your flight but it was also extremely hard to get a refund for the flight you missed.
One of the good things about e-tickets is that you don’t have to get your tickets reissued when your itinerary changes. You can also get your tickets refunded by telephone or on the Internet, instead of having to go to the airline or your travel agent’s offices in person.
E-tickets are very easy to use. For instance, if you purchase a ticket from Korean Air through the Internet or by telephone, the company sends you an “e-ticket confirmation” via e-mail or fax. You can collect your boarding ticket at the airport by simply presenting a copy of your e-ticket confirmation at the boarding counter.
These days, you can also get your boarding ticket from an automatic booth or kiosk. Air passengers usually have to queue in front of airline counters at the airport for at least half an hour to get their boarding tickets and secure their seats on the flight. But if you use the kiosk, you can significantly reduce your waiting period, as you can simply get your boarding ticket from the automatic booth, and send your luggage through luggage counters marked for e-ticket passengers only.
by Suh Gyeong-ho