Maintenance, other than line maintenance, has not really been a priority for alliances—but since they have made some joint seat purchases, perhaps it is time to look at leveraging aftermarket expenditures.
For instance, Star Alliance has a Web-based exchange where all its member airlines trade surplus spare parts from their inventories. The portal, which is operated in cooperation with Aeroxchange, has been up and running since the middle of last year, and says Christian Klick, a Star Alliance vice president, “We have since then seen constantly rising activities and have recorded savings versus OEM prices in low double-digit millions of U.S. dollars, which is very promising for this fairly young alliance initiative.”
Star has also worked on a joint economy-class seat that has been flying on the first aircraft since June, but the group is not looking at joint purchases nor is it planning shared maintenance, repair and overhaul. “It is not part of the current assignment, which our organization has received from member CEOs,” Klick confirms, while noting that several of Star’s member carriers are assigning maintenance business to each other on a bilateral basis.
SkyTeam executives also have stated that they have no plans for a joint MRO services purchase on the alliance level. “Our focus remains on delivering on customer-focused initiatives that will add even more seamlessness in the customer journey,” a spokesman for SkyTeam tells Aviation Week.
However, as is the case within Star, members with large maintenance shops and capabilities are pitching their services to fellow members or are building relationships. KLM Engineering & Maintenance has developed MRO centers of excellence with Air France Industries and, as a next step, is weighing the merits of forging maintenance agreements with other alliance partners.
Aircraft on the ground (AOG) or parts-pooling agreements are potential areas of cooperation, KLM Chief Operating Officer and Deputy CEO Pieter Elbers indicated at MRO Europe last year.
Engineering and maintenance is an active area of cooperation among Oneworld’s member airlines, and has been for years. Oneworld points out that it was the first group to bring together member carriers to sit down with key airframe and powerplant manufacturers to address common issues and also to work together on the development of new aircraft and engine types.
“With the recent and impending introductions of the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, both of which have been ordered by a significant number of Oneworld member airlines, Oneworld carriers have shared expertise and best practices to help each other achieve smooth introductions of the new aircraft types,” says Michael Blunt, Oneworld alliance vice president of corporate communications.
He adds that the alliance’s carriers “also have a long pedigree of cooperation” in the field of MRO, sharing facilities and suppliers at many outposts and extensive pooling and sharing of supplies. The heads of engineering and maintenance functions at Oneworld’s member airlines meet several times a year to review progress and set strategy for working together. Reporting to them are working groups covering specific MRO issues facing alliance members—covering specific aircraft and types, component supplier performance, spares and purchasing, and other key areas of best practice.