ALTA: Star looks to rebuild Brazilian presence after TAM departs

Panama City
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Star Alliance chief executive Mark Schwab says the group must prepare to rebuild its presence in the Brazilian market ahead of the departure of existing member TAM or risk losing a foothold in Latin America's biggest market. While he declines to be specific about potential candidates, Avianca Brazil is seen as a leading contender.

TAM must leave Star due to a condition of its merger with Oneworld member LAN that requires it not to be in the same alliance as AviancaTaca. "There's no date for that, but whenever that day comes we will lose a strong home carrier and we need to go back and rebuild our proposition within Brazil," Schwab told Flightglobal at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum.

He added that Brazil represents 40% of Latin America's aviation business "so we need to find a solution for Star in the country".

The two obvious candidates likely to be in Star's sights are Avianca Brazil and Gol. With the latter having close ties with SkyTeam's Delta Air Lines, the more likely new partner would be Avianca Brazil. This Brazilian domestic carrier is a subsidiary of Synergy Group - parent of Star member AviancaTaca.

Jose Efromovich, who is Avianca Brazil president and on the board of Synergy, says that the airline's current passenger service system is not "robust" enough to support becoming a Star member. "Our system is not prepared for us to get into Star Alliance," he says.

Avianca Brazil uses a local Brazilian web booking system and would have to move to a more sophisticated platform before it could operate codeshare or international services.