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Unusual Bedfellows: Star’s Lufthansa and oneoworld’s Cathay Get Together

There are normal marriages, there matches made in heaven and then there are just weird partners getting into bed with each other – an odd couple, if you will. This new partnership definitely falls in the latter category.

Airlines from different alliances do codeshare with other airlines not in the alliance or even aligned elsewhere, but those partnerships rarely go beyond that. You’ve got outliers like the Qantas (QF) and Emirates (EK) linkage that sent ripples through the airline world when it was announced, marking a certain end to the long historic ties between QF and British Airways on the Kangaroo route. It was truly an intruiging move on the part of both airlines to make that partnership work.

And now we have a new one.

The Scoop:

Cathay Pacific (CX) and Lufthansa (LH), both founding members of their respective alliances, have decided to move their relationship to the next level, going beyond a simple codeshare  pact and extending it far further than what they currently have between one another.

The two airline already cooperate on freight and cargo flights between Germany and Hong Kong, and have some relatively loose codeshares between their respective hubs in HKG, Frankfurt and Munich. But the pair have decided to take things further and expand the scope of their partnership.

Commencing real soon – April 26, 2017 soon – the airline will start adding its codes to Cathay Pacific flights beyond Hong Kong and onwards to CX flights to Australia and New Zealand. This will include flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Cairns in Australia in addition to Auckland in New Zealand.

On top of this new development, Lufthansa owned airlines and fellow Star Alliance members Swiss International Airlines (LX) and Austrian Airlines (OS) will also be looped into the deal, adding their own coes onto to Cathay flights to Australia and New Zealand. Star Alliance elite status will be recognized on these CX services as well.

Conversely, Cathay passengers now have full code share access to flights operated by any of Swiss, Lufthansa or Austrian to Frankfurt, Munich, Leipzig, Dusselldorf, Zurich or Vienna. Full mileage and elite bonuses to CX’s Marco Polo Club members will apply on these flights.

The full terms and conditions of this new partnership will be released shortly – we’ll update you accordingly.

Lufthansa will start cooperating with Cathay Pacific on select routes to Oceania. Credit: Lufthansa

The Takeaway:

Well this one came out of left field, but with further introspection it isn’t a massive surprise. Lufthansa, along with the Air France-KLM group have long lobbied the European Union to do something about the harm the big three Middle Eastern carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways – are doing to the Euro carriers’ long haul market share, especially to India, South East Asia and Australia. Apart from British Airways, which most likely does so for historical/colonial reasions, no Euro carrier flies to Australia anymore.

Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said as much:

So much is happening in our industry right now. That’s why we need partnerships.

Thus far the EU hasn’t done much to curtail the expasion of the Middle Eastern carriers into Europe and have largely left it to individual countries. For instance Germany in particular is taking steps to restrict access for Emirates, who are currently maxed out on applying for new flights into the country, despite the carrier’s best efforts to do so.

France and the Netherlands are also attempting to follow suit, but are finding it hard to get the political capital it needs to get these new restrictive measures through their houses of parliament.

So that’s the not interesting part.

Cathay passengers will now have access to Lufthansa”s extensive European network. Credit: Cathay Pacific

What’s the most interesting is that the Deutsche Lufthansa Group – which includes Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines – are already in joint venture partnerships with Japan’s All Nippon Airways, Thai Airways and already have codeshare agreements in place with Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand. You might notice that all carriers are Star Alliance members, some of whom have had long standing relations with LH.

All of the aforementioned airlines fly to Oceania as well. So why go the Cathay route? It’s not even a partnership with a non-aligned airline like Virgin Australia (SQ has a close relationship with them) but with a founding member of a direct rival alliannce.

It all goes to show that in the current climate alliances are begining to become more fluid, and the lines between what’s “politically correct” are now blurred. Basically, anything is fair game. Qantas dumping British Airways for Emirates, the bane of existence for pretty much any long haul international carrier, started the trend and we see it continuing today with this new marriage of strange bedfellows.

But the consumer will benefit. LH’s presence in Asia is relatively token, mostly limited to major Asian and Star hubs bar some secondary cities in China, having cut Manila, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur a long time ago. Their presence in  Australia and New Zeland is non-existent bar some codeshares with Thai. So this new partnership with CX gives European based Star customers more options. A CX reverse herringbone product all the way to Australia is nothing to sniff at.

Conversely, CX has a token presence in Germany, effectively a Star Alliance fortress. The airline tends to focus on the oneworld massive hub in London Heathrow through British Airways. This givies CX and oneworld passengers further options to contiental Europe without the hassle and the huge pain of transiting through London. Given that we’re now on the eve on the triggering of Aritcle 50, this is all the more important as we face a post Brexit world.

So folks of both alliances benefit greatly.

Folks of both alliances get to also sample rival products…which it must be said – and it pains me to do so as a solidly Star guy – oneworld wins on this one because Cathay reverse herringbone Business Class beats Lufthansa’s “equivalent” product hands down. Both on the soft and hard product front as well.

While this new partnership mostly benefits European based customers, everyone benefits with more options at the end of the day. So what say you? Are you a oneworld elite that might jumpship from BA, forego a London transit and try out this new service to Asia and beyond if you’re not based in the United Kingdom? Or are you a Star elite and decide you’ve had enough of Singapore Airlines’ (extremely) highly restrictive policies on Star Alliance partner tickets and just go the Cathay route, throwing in an enjoyable Hong Kong transit along the way?

Featured Image: Credit Lufthansa Group

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