Air France-KLM chief executives say it is too early to see how the new strategic cooperation between Delta Air Lines and Chile’s LATAM Airlines will affect the SkyTeam alliance and its member-partners.

On Sept. 27, Delta  agreed to buy a 20% stake in oneworld alliance member LATAM Airlines to expand its presence on routes between the Americas.

“This is too early to judge,” KLM CEO Pieter Elbers told journalists Oct. 7 in Amsterdam. “Lots of work [has to be done] between Delta Air Lines and LATAM. Air France-KLM has [a Brazilian partner, Sao Paulo-based LCC] GOL, which is a good partner.”

Delta Air Lines and the Air France KLM Group are SkyTeam alliance members. LATAM confirmed it will leave the oneworld alliance.

Delta owns 49% of both UK long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic and Aeromexico. The Atlanta-based carrier has a smaller 8.8% stake in Air France-KLM, and controls 9.2% of Korean Air, with the intention of lifting its stake to 10%. Delta also has a 3.5% stake in China Eastern Airlines and plans to sell its 9% stake in GOL, its current Brazilian partner, in the coming months.

Elbers added that both Air France and KLM have a strong presence in Latin America and the cooperation with GOL remains important. “For example, 25% of our KLM passengers who fly to Sao Paulo connect with GOL,” Elbers noted.

In terms of long-haul network importance, US routes are the most important ones for KLM, followed by those to China and Brazil, Elbers said.

Air France KLM Group CEO Ben Smith added that the alliance system remains important, especially for the upcoming JV, which is creating financial benefits. “This is a good extra element,” he said. 

Regarding the China market, Smith noted it has become extremely competitive, especially between China and Europe. “Especially to our hubs Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle, there is no shortage of competition. We are doing everything to maintain our position in China,” he said.

Smith reconfirmed the Air France-KLM Group has no interest in investing in bankrupt Italian flag carrier Alitalia.

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at