In the aggressively competitive and turbulent airline business, the possibility of a joint venture between two of the most storied carriers in the Asia-Pacific inspires a trail of expectations. National carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Japan's largest airline group in terms of passenger numbers and revenues, All Nippon Airways (ANA), will announce in a few weeks wide-ranging collaboration that will go beyond their current code-sharing agreement. The planned venture will allow the two airlines to coordinate their networks, flight schedules, capacities and fares in their joint quest for a slice of the fast-growing Asia-Pacific market. Expected to be launched next year, once it is vetted by their national antitrust and aviation authorities, the scope for the venture is initially for flights between Japan and countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Australia. It is a rare instance of a deep partnership for SIA, which has cultivated these arrangements with only a handful of airlines - Air New Zealand, Germany's Lufthansa and Scandinavia's SAS.
It was on the back of these joint ventures with other airlines, and thanks to an improved performance by its associates, that SIA reported a jump in net profit in its most recent quarter ended September, up 68 per cent from a year ago. Alongside the ANA venture, Singapore's expanded air services agreements with Japan and South Korea that allow airlines on both sides to offer more flights and services will come in handy for SIA to spread its wings in the promising North-east Asian market. For ANA, pressured by weak demand for air cargo and business-class seats, the attraction is SIA's extensive reach in the region. The venture also adds to Singapore's gravitational pull as an aviation hub. Footfall at Changi Airport is expected to rise as ANA ticket holders land to catch connecting flights. But at the heart of it all is the slate of benefits for the passenger - additional flights, shorter layovers, and the ability to combine flights from the two airlines in one ticket. Cheaper airfares, more dependent on forces of demand and supply, may not automatically follow.