China brings us the announcement of a 5th airline alliance joining the other airline alliances such as One World, Sky Team, and Star Alliance or the less known Etihad Equity Partners. The new alliance, and the first Low Cost Carrier Alliance, is 100% based around Chinese airlines and is called the U-Fly Alliance. The Alliance is open to expansion and welcoming of other low cost carriers (LCC), but for now the focus is around the greater China region and airlines owned by the much larger Hainan Airlines Company Limited (HNA), which owns a mixture of airline companies which includes 5 star full service, Hainan Airlines; charter companies, low cost carriers, and other smaller Chinese airlines.
The U-Fly Alliance is thefirst low cost alliance which brings HK Express, Lucky Air, Urumqi Air and West Air into one alliance. Although it’s being dubbed an alliance, the U-Fly Alliance is currently is just HNA LCC collaborating together for revenue and cost synergies and to build a better understanding of the HNA group/brand. To me, this alliance does not seem much different than the Air Asia or JetStar brands which are several subsidies spread across multiple countries. The only difference is, instead of HNA having 1 airline brand name, they have instead confused flyers by having several names and are now trying to build a brand identity with the U-Fly Alliance.
From the U-Fly Alliance:
The U-FLY Alliance is an alliance of Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) that is all about U, our Guest. Offering U an expanded network for low-fare travel across Asia, whether for leisure, business, or visiting friends and relatives. Flying solo, as families, or in groups – large and small. Providing U with much greater choice for low-fare travel by combining the networks of independent LCC’s.
Ever wanted to travel around Asia at low cost? Especially to new, exciting but difficult to reach destinations? Then the U-FLY Alliance is for U, offering U low fares air travel between 84 cities across Asia.
Each member of the alliance is a Low Cost Carrier (LCC), committed to enabling U to travel more often, safely and securely. By linking up the networks of alliance members, the U-FLY Alliance gives U much enhanced opportunity for direct or one-stop travel between cities, previously only possible with inconvenient schedules and high fares. Flights will be bookable via each airline’s website in the near future.
With the leadership of HK Express, Hong Kong’s one and only low cost carrier (LCC), the U-FLY Alliance brings together four of North Asia’s fastest growing LCC’s – HK Express (based in Hong Kong), Lucky Air (Kunming), Urumqi Air (Urumqi) and West Air (Chongqing), linking networks connecting Lhasa to Tokyo, Harbin to Phuket. Initially having a major focus on China, other LCCs will join the U-FLY alliance over time, multiplying the number of destinations that can be reached direct or with one stop.
Network alignment is underway with many exciting city pairs being connected through 2016. As each LCC’s network expands and becomes more interlinked, the number of travel opportunities will multiply giving a huge range of options to visit the places you have always wanted to fly to.
If the U-Fly Alliance will actually become anything more than a way for HNA LCC to work together to cut costs, provide more connection and destination options for travelers, and share revenue is still unknown. Yet, I do believe the HNA is finally realizing that to be successful their independently owned and ran airlines need to coordinate together to fend off competition and the only way to do this is through an alliance which forces the airlines to communicate and work together.