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An airline alliance is an aviation industry arrangement between two or more airlines agreeing to cooperate on a substantial level. Alliances may provide marketing branding to facilitate travelers making inter-airline codeshare connections within countries. This branding may involve unified aircraft liveries of member aircraft.
Benefits can consist of:
Airline alliances may also create disadvantages for the traveler, such as:
The ability of an airline to join an alliance may be restricted by laws and regulations or subject to approval by authorities. Competition law issues must also be considered in some countries.
The first airline alliance was formed in the 1930s, when Panair do Brasil and its parent company Pan American World Airways agreed to exchange routes to Latin America. In 1990, the African Joint Air Services (AJAS) Accord between Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia led to the launch of Alliance Air in 1994 with South African Airways, Air Tanzania, Uganda Airlines and the governments of Uganda and Tanzania as shareholders.
The first large alliance began in 1989, when Northwest Airlines and KLM agreed to large-scale codesharing. In 1992, the Netherlands signed the first open skies agreement with the United States, in spite of objections from the European Union, which gave both countries unrestricted landing rights on the other's soil. Normally landing rights are granted for a fixed number of flights per week to a fixed destination. Each adjustment requires negotiations, often between governments rather than between the companies involved. In return, the United States granted antitrust immunity to the alliance between Northwest Airlines and KLM. Other alliances would struggle for years to overcome the transnational barriers and lack of antitrust immunity, and still do so.
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