Malaysia Airlines will become the newest member of the oneworld frequent-flier alliance.
The Kuala Lumpur-based carrier "is expected to start flying as part of oneworld late next year," the frequent-flier group says in a press release. American Airlines is the U.S. anchor of the oneworld alliance, which also includes British Airways, Qantas and Cathay Pacific, among others.
Oneworld says that Malaysia Airlines was unanimously elected a member designate by the chief executives of the alliance's member airlines at a meeting today in Singapore.
Gerard Arpey, American Airlines' CEO and the Chief Executive Chairman of the oneworld Governing Board, says:
"Today's agreement with Malaysia Airlines represents another significant milestone in our journey to establish oneworld firmly as the world's premier airline alliance with members unmatched in brand and service quality. We look forward to welcoming Malaysia Airlines to oneworld."
The Malaysian carrier and oneworld say the airline's entry into the alliance will expand oneworld's combined route network "to almost 950 destinations in 150 countries, served by a combined fleet of over 2,600 planes carrying 358 million passengers a year," The Associated Press writes.
"The time is clearly right for our company to join one of the global airline groups, and oneworld is clearly the best option for us," Malaysia Airlines CEO Tengku Azmil Aziz says to the Malaysia Star.
The Sydney Morning Herald notes Malaysia Airlines' decision to join oneworld is may rule it out as a joint-venture partner for Virgin Australia, which has been on a search alliance tie-ups.
Additionally, the oneworld move could result in a partner shake-up for Malaysia Airlines, which currently is partnered with a number of other carriers. They include some that are key members of other alliances, such as Air France/KLM and Delta of SkyTeam and Swiss International Airlines of Star.
On that subject, the Business Times of Malaysia says it asked CEO Azmil specifically about whether Malaysia Airlines would continue its relationship with Air France/KLM.
"There is no rule that members can't cooperate with non-oneworld members," he responded. "Overall our entry into oneworld changes the game and it will necessitate a review (of its operations). This does not mean that we will stop doing anything with KLM. We have had a long standing relationship with them and we understand each other really well."
As for oneworld, it is also expected to welcome Germany's Air Berlin and India's Kingfisher Airlines in early 2012.