SWISS International Airlines has opted out of the oneworld alliance, reportedly due to an unwillingness to merge its frequent flyer program with that of alliance co-founder British Airways.
“The sizable costs of such an integration and the drawbacks it would bring currently outweigh its projected mid- to long-term benefits,” SWISS said in a statement. “As the abandonment of the proposed integration also means that the bilateral agreement between SWISS and British Airways cannot be put into practice, SWISS is unable to join the oneworld alliance at the present time.”
Though details remain undisclosed, industry watchers report that Swiss TravelClub was unwilling to hand over client data to Executive Club.
In a separate statement, British Airways chief executive Rod Eddington said, “We are disappointed that SWISS has decided to step back from our agreement, but we accept that it is up to SWISS to decide what is in its best interests.”
SWISS and BA had signed a memorandum of understanding in September, in which BA would support a 50 Million Swiss Franc credit facility for SWISS, in exchange for a frequent flyer tie-up and eight of SWISS’ 14 daily slots at London’s Heathrow Airport.
BA says that it will keep the Heathrow slots, and that a codesharing agreement between London and Geneva will continue for three years. A related Basel and Zurich codeshare will end in the fall.
The move has sparked renewed suspicion that German carrier and Star Alliance member Lufthansa may move in to make a deal with the struggling Swiss airline, whose chief executive is a former Lufthansa manager.
Lufthansa has expressed interest in a deal with SWISS before, and said they would remain open to negotiations, though the two carriers had not yet engaged in formal talks.
Peter Bouw, chairman of SWISS, said the carrier is still looking for an alliance. “Participation in an alliance is a priority,” Bouw told SkyTrax news.
The Swiss government has suggested it would support a SWISS-Lufthansa alliance.
“The Swiss government would support a tie-up with Lufthansa if the board of SWISS decided on that,” Finance Minister Hans Rudolf Merz said.