La crisis permanente del transporte aéreo
Posted by juanjesus en noviembre 20, 2009
Este artículo Anxious airlines agonise over alliances refleja la política de alianzas entre compañías aéreas que se está prodigando a nivel mundial, para atajar la situación de “colapso” de las expectativas de crecimiento de esta industria (no hay sino que ver las estadísticas de la IATA, al respecto), que se las veía tan felices hasta hace tan solo dos años. La crisis financiera y los precios del petróleo han traído de cabeza a la industria con la caída de aerolíneas durante el año 2008, y la urgente readaptación y reducción de trayectos ha traído al traste las previsiones de las agencias internacionales y del propio sector. La proyección infinita de progreso y bajo coste aéreo se ha deshecho.
El transporte aéreo afronta un reto enorme: sobrevivir en un entorno de precios crecientes de la energía (tienen increíbles propósitos de reducir el consumo de combustible), con demanda muy débil sin apoyo financiero (salvo en las economías de “bajo coste” y “en vías de desarrollo”, al menos por ahora), y con tendencia a la pérdida de importancia relativa en las actividades económicas (el turismo probablemente está entrando también en otra meseta histórica de movimientos trasatlánticos). Claras repercusiones para Canarias de este escenario de expectativas de negocio de las aerolíneas.
Anxious airlines agonise over alliances November 4, 2009 As the financial crisis continues to embroil airlines, they are having to come up with ways of working together to stay in the air, writes Matt O’Sullivan. Across the Hudson River from the glittering Manhattan skyline, dozens of planes queue to take off at Newark Liberty. The international airport is the second-largest hub for Continental Airlines, and a vital artery for lucrative corporate traffic between New York and the European business centres of London, Frankfurt and Paris. But the traffic jam on the tarmac is illusory at America’s 10th busiest airport. Business traffic remains severely depressed as corporate fliers take the highly unusual step of downgrading from the pointy end of planes to economy – or simply not travelling. Planes are near-full only because air fares are at their lowest in real terms. The worst downturn of the jet age has already claimed dozens of airlines worldwide and left those still flying desperate to pull a rabbit out of the hat. But their options are narrowing by the day, having already pulled almost every lever possible – from shedding staff, grounding planes, delaying and cancelling deliveries of new aircraft, to tapping investors for cash. The statistics are startling: the peak airline body the International Air Transport Association recently revised its forecast for losses worldwide this year from $US9 billion ($9.9 billion) to $US11 billion. Qantas, one of the best-placed airlines worldwide, is still wallowing in its worst profit slump since it was floated in 1995. Airline executives might be talking about economic ”green shoots”, but they are yet to call a turn in the cycle. Such was the sentiment flowing from the bosses of 25 airlines that make up the Star Alliance who met in a giant aircraft hangar at Newark last week to officially mark Continental joining the world’s biggest airline grouping. It is the biggest defection yet in the history of the airline marketing alliances, shaking up the balance between the three groupings of Star, the second-biggest, SkyTeam, and oneworld (in which Qantas and British Airways are partners). The severe slump has left airline executives worldwide desperate to strike closer alliances. Closer to home, Virgin Blue this week gained a much-needed boost after the competition watchdog gave tentative approval for it pursuing a joint venture with the world’s largest airline, Delta, on flights between Australia and the US. Glenn Tilton, the boss of United Airlines and a long-time advocate of industry liberalisation, forecasts more airline consolidation within the US. But even within America it is not easy: last year Continental walked away from merger discussions with United. So it was left to the next-best thing: on Tilton’s urging Continental began its switch from SkyTeam to Star. The arrival of the US’s fourth biggest airline into the Star Alliance camp will lead to numerous code-share arrangements, such as that between Continental and United on services to Australia (as well as on indirect services to Australia flown by Air New Zealand). But marketing alliances and closer revenue-sharing deals are unlikely to be the precursor for some time to full-blown mergers across borders. Further mergers like that between Delta and Northwest last year might be on the cards in the US (Continental’s integration into Star Alliance has led to speculation it will be a precursor to a marriage between it and United) but the likelihood of them eventuating across borders is still remote. Regulatory barriers make takeovers extremely difficult to execute. The revenue-sharing deals like that proposed by Virgin and Delta are one of the few options available to allow airlines to shed substantial costs to offset the slump in demand. ”Right now what you see happening here is the market’s response to those inhibitions,” Tilton told BusinessDay at Newark. ”So as long as there are those restrictions you will find a scenario playing out … which is alliance-based rather than a sophisticated financial transaction.” But the airline groupings themselves are not necessarily a saviour. Qantas’s former boss Geoff Dixon recently described the alliances as, “at best, marketing relationships” and not an alternative to “genuine mergers” between airlines. “It’s an important part of the marketing … but I don’t think it’s an important part of the industry,” he said in August. “They are a stepping stone, in my view.” Virgin Blue’s chief executive, Brett Godfrey, has also been lukewarm on the three global airline alliances. It is not affiliated to any of the three groupings. But Air New Zealand’s deputy chief executive, Norm Thompson, does not share those sentiments about the value of alliances, which allow the sharing of airport lounges, frequent flyer schemes and flights. “We know exactly how valuable this alliance is to Air New Zealand, and Continental is now going to add to that,” he said. “There are tens of millions of dollars that we get as a result of being part of Star.” The alliance helps feed passengers to Air New Zealand from United’s network on the US west coast, from Lufthansa out of Germany and now from the business-travel focused Continental, which is dominant on America’s east coast and in Latin America. But even for Air New Zealand the benefits of the airline marketing alliances go only so far. Thompson flew out of New York bound for Tokyo late last week to meet his counterparts at Japan Airlines, which faces collapse without a bail-out from the Japanese Government. Air New Zealand has a 20-year bilateral arrangement with JAL, which feeds passengers from Japan onto the New Zealand airline’s flights. It is also an important relationship because it is a market where Star Alliance does not have a foothold. JAL’s precarious state has also given the Delta-led SkyTeam alliance a rare chance to make inroads into the valuable north Asian travel market. That has sparked a retaliatory approach from American Airlines, which is spearheading an attempt to keep JAL within the smaller oneworld camp. Qantas has said it will help American Airlines in its efforts but will not commit cash to the venture. Thompson will not be drawn on who he expects to win the battle for JAL’s allegiance, but is nevertheless startled by JAL’s predicament. “It staggers me – you wouldn’t have thought JAL would be in such trouble,” he said. Fortunately, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin and other southern hemisphere airlines are heading into their high season, which they hope will offer respite from a downturn now entering its second year. “[But] you have to wonder what is going to happen with the airlines in the northern hemisphere if the global economy doesn’t turn,” Thompson said. “We still have swine flu hanging over our heads as well. ”It is approaching in the order of 50 airlines that are no longer flying that were doing so 12 months ago.” Airlines have every reason to hasten talks on closer relationships. But even these are not always easy to pass by regulators. Last year the Australian competition watchdog rejected a proposal from Air New Zealand and Air Canada to form a ”co-operation agreement” on flights between Sydney and Vancouver. The same regulator allowed Qantas and South Africa Airways to have a similar agreement between Australia and Johannesburg for years. So is airline consolidation across international borders dead? “It depends on what you mean by consolidation,” the chief executive of Singapore Airlines, Chew Choon Seng, told BusinessDay. “If by consolidation you mean a combination of economic interests, then I think so long as restrictions remain in place against cross-border ownership and control … we are in for a long wait.” This sentiment has been echoed repeatedly by Qantas’s boss, Alan Joyce, since the collapse of the Australian airline’s merger talks with British Airways late last year. For better or worse, alliances like the 10-member oneworld or deeper arrangements such as that between V Australia and Delta seem the closest airlines will go towards real industry consolidation in the Asia Pacific for some time. And investors here will be keeping a close eye on Joyce’s next move towards closer relationships with other airlines in the near-term. The reporter flew to New York courtesy of Star Alliance. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald