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Saudi Arabian codeshare with Air France is the last step before Skyteam

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Dec 26, 2010

PARIS (eTN) - Just two weeks ago, Air France and Saudi Arabian Airlines signed a codeshare agreement on routes between Saudi Arabia and France. In an aviation world where codeshare agreements between cariers are signed almost every week, the Air France-Saudi Arabian announcement looks rather like a non-event, except that this time it will likely end up with the future integration of Saudi Arabian into Skyteam, the second largest global airlines' alliance in the world.

According to an executive working for a Skyteam airline, the official announcement is due to happen around January 10. On this day, the codeshare agreement will officially come into power. From this day, both carriers will together offer daily frequencies between Jeddah, Riyadh, and Paris.

It has been reported in Saudi media that Skyteam officials visited the Saudi kingdom during the summer to look at conditions for Saudi Arabian to join, following the signature in June of a partnership agreement between both carriers.

The membership of Saudia Arabian opens a new perspective for airlines in the region. For the first time, an airline from the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, a geo-political grouping of six Arab countries - Bahrein, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) will be part of a major world alliance. The entry of Saudi Arabian into Skyteam can probably seen as a tentative by carriers outside the region to regain some of the traffic lost to airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, or Qatar in the last decade. By having a member in the GCC, alliances will then be able to compete more efficiently within the region.

For an air carrier such as Saudi Arabian, the integration into an alliance is also an opportunity to regain some positions in the region. Traditional carriers such as Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, and Saudi Arabian have seen their passengers' traffic falling apart as their customers have moved to their competitors, which offer superior service and an extensive network. It is likely that other state carriers such as Kuwait Airways or Gulf Air, both suffering from financial troubles, might look out at an alliance as a potential rescuer. Riyadh might then be turned into an efficient hub between Asia, Africa, and Europe. With over a dozen member airlines, Saudi Arabian will then gain the opportunity to offer, with its partners, over 13,000 daily flights to almost 900 destinations in 169 countries - more than the powerful Emirates.

Saudi Arabian codeshare with Air France is the last step before Skyteam

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