Star Alliance Woos Lan Airlines to Keep South America Foothold

Star Alliance Woos Lan Airlines
Star Alliance Chief Executive Officer Jaan Albrecht speaking during a news conference at the group's annual meeting in Queenstown, New Zealand. Photographer: Mark Coote/Bloomberg

Star Alliance said it’s seeking to lure Lan Airlines SA from the Oneworld group as the Chilean carrier’s takeover of TAM SA threatens to eliminate its only South American member.

“We believe Star has a very good proposal,” Jaan Albrecht, the alliance’s chief executive officer, told reporters in Queenstown, New Zealand, today. “We feel pretty sure that we have a leading position in Latin America.”

Lan hasn’t decided whether to stay in Oneworld with carriers such as British Airways Plc and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines following its takeover of Star member TAM. Star includes United Continental Holdings Inc. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. The combination of Lan and TAM, to be called Latam Airlines Group, will be the largest carrier in Latin America.

Star officials are speaking to executives of LAN and Tam, Albrecht said. Before Sao Paulo-based Tam, the alliance hadn’t had a South American member since Varig left in 2007. Aerovias del Continente Americano SA, known as Avianca and based in Bogota, and Copa Holdings SA, based in Panama City, are due to join the group in 2012.

Lan representatives weren’t available to comment, a public relations official said today by telephone from Santiago.

Aerolineas Argentinas SA, South America’s fifth-biggest airline, last month said it will join the SkyTeam alliance led by Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air France-KLM Group.

Tam is South America’s biggest carrier by passenger numbers, moving 29 million travelers in 2009, according to International Air Transport Association data. Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, also based in Brazil, is second with almost 28 million, followed by Lan with 15 million and Avianca with 9 million.

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