LONDON – As it turns into its 20th anniversary, oneworld, one of the world’s largest airline alliances, is set to roll out an enhanced integration and an improved passenger experience for those traveling on its member airlines.

Established in February 1999 with American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas, oneworld has grown to 13 members, which recently gathered in London to celebrate the anniversary, while unveiling a series of transformations and changes to keep ahead of the game in the ever-changing air travel market. 

“British Airways hosted fellow founding oneworld members in London when we launched the alliance two decades ago, and it is an honor to welcome this greatly expanded family back to our home city in our centenary year to celebrate our alliance’s 20th anniversary,” Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman, and CEO said in a statement.

“Global alliances need to evolve to remain relevant in this fast-changing industry – and that is just what oneworld is doing now.”

carrierconnect, the new digital platform

The most notorious announcement during the anniversary event has been the launch of carrierconnect, a digital platform intended to provide seamless connectivity for customers flying on multisector, multi-airline journeys.

Passengers flying on any oneworld alliance partner will be able to check-in, obtain boarding passes, flight information, and updates, and track their baggage, from the oneworld airline app of their choice.

Other features to be progressively introduced include the possibility of paying for extra baggage, selection and payment of seats, and airport information, such as the location of lounges and priority lanes.

“The role of global alliances, like oneworld, is to connect the networks of airlines, making it easier and more rewarding for customers to travel to many more places beyond the reach of any single carrier,” oneworld chief executive Rob Gurney said in a statement.

Gurney said about half of oneworld airline frequent flyer members had at least three airline apps on their mobile devices. However, there was a strong presence for using just one app to cover a trip involving connecting flights.

Greater airline co-location effortsat airports

Oneworld has embarked into some alliance co-location projects at certain airports around the world. The plans seem to bring the member airlines operating at all airports worldwide together, thus improving the transfers for passengers connecting between the alliance’s different carriers.  

oneworld has also announced the unveiling of the first own oneworld-branded lounge, with the location to be announced at a later date.

“We are working on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities at some of our most important gateways in Asia, the Americas, and Europe with the aim of delivering the best experience for customers at each of these locations,” Gurney said.

A new full member and a new membership platform

As previously announced last December, Royal Air Maroc (RAM) is set to become the latest member of oneworld, the first full-member African airline to join the alliance and the first since the incorporation of Qatar Airways in 2013.

Royal Air Maroc 737MAX 8 (IJ041) C1 Flight – December 16, 2018

Besides the incorporation of Royal Air Maroc, which will take full effect in 2020, oneworld has also launched a new membership platform level called oneworld connect – conceived for smaller, more regional carriers –– with Fiji Airways to debut next month, increasing the alliance network to 1,100 destinations in 180 territories. The alliance expects to sign more partners in the short term.

A new motto: ‘travel bright’ 

With the motto ‘travel bright,’ oneworld unveiled a renewed market positioning and a new website, intended to reflect the cultural, ethnic and age diversity of the alliance’s member airlines and their customers. 

 “Travel Bright is the visual representation of a radical transformation to build on the value it generates for customers and its member airlines,offering benefits and technology while demonstrating its human side.” Rob Gurney said.

Qatar Airways to stay in, for now

Qatar Airways has left the door open for reconciliation with its fellow oneworld members, although the airline’s GCEO, Akbar Al Baker, warned that the stay of the Doha-based carrier would depend “on future talks.”

In the last months, Al Baker has repeatedly expressed his disappointment about the status of the alliance, and particularly with the claims from American Airlines about the benefit of Qatar Airways from illegal subsidies, and with Qantas due to the broad alliance that the Australian airline has with Emirates.

For now, Qatar Airways is still a member of oneworld while buying up stakes in other airlines. Currently, it owns 20% of British Airways and Iberia’s owner IAG, 10 percent of South American carrier LATAM Airlines and almost 10 percent of Cathay Pacific, all of them oneworld members.

Remaining Relevant and Ahead of the Game

Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, who is the current chairman of the oneworld’s governing board, said that these plans would ensure the alliance remained relevant amid changes in consumer behavior and passenger expectations.

Joyce said although global alliances had significantly grown in terms of membership, they had “failed to keep pace with the changes that their members, the industry at large and the marketplace have experienced.”

“At oneworld, we are making up for that,” Joyce said.