Oneworld CEO Sees More Global Flights for Charlotte, Philly, Phoenix

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- The head of the Oneworld alliance said all three US Airways (LCC) hubs could see more international flying as a result of the pending merger with American (AAMRQ.PK) .

"It's possible that several members would be interested in Charlotte, Philadelphia or Phoenix as additional destinations," said Oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby, in an interview. "I would hesitate to predict how interested, but they are likely to consider them.

OneWorld, one of three global airline alliances, has a dozen members, including American, British Airways , Iberia, LAN and Japan Airlines . US Airways, currently a member of Star Alliance, said it will move to Oneworld when the merger is completed. Once that occurs, Oneworld members will account for 34% of the alliance capacity between the U.S. and other countries, up from 26% today, while Star will have 36% and Skyteam will have 30%.

"All of our members have been involved in the American Chapter 11 process and have been keen on a bigger, stronger U.S. partner," Ashby said. "Clearly this merger accomplishes that. If your partner gets bigger and stronger, that's good for you."

Ashby said all three US Airways hubs present attractive options for various Oneworld members, particularly British Airways, which operates hubs at London Heathrow and London Gatwick; Iberia, which operates a hub in Madrid; and LAN, which operates hubs in Buenos Aires, Lima, Peru; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Quito, Ecuador; and Santiago, Chile.

British Airways, which already serves Philadelphia and Phoenix, once held a 25% stake in US Airways and served Charlotte but the arrangement ended in 1997 and British Airways pulled out of Charlotte in 2002.

Today, British Airways, American and Iberia are part of a trans-Atlantic joint venture, immunized against anti-trust violations and able to jointly discuss schedules and pricing and to share revenue. In such arrangements, hub-to-hub flying becomes more likely and it makes little difference which carrier provides the aircraft. Iberia currently serves five U.S. destinations, including Boston and American hubs in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

Additionally, "LAN may be interested in ramping up service," Ashby said. Of the LAN hubs, Lima has the most traffic and could easily benefit from offering connections to a US Airways hub, Ashby said.

The Charlotte hub serves 133 destinations, including 108 domestic destinations; Philadelphia serves 113 destinations, 86 of them domestic; and Phoenix serves 75 destinations of which 65 are domestic. While Los Angeles is currently a LAN destination, it is also a congested airline with fewer connecting options than Phoenix offers.

Oneworld already has the biggest alliance presence in Latin America, bolstered by American's strong Miami hub as well as by LAN's network. Over 60% of all international travel from Latin America is to four cities -- Miami, the most popular, New York, London and Madrid. Oneworld members operate hubs in all four.