Greg Lindsay's Blog

December 13, 2009  |  permalink

Open Skies vs. Oneworld

The battle for the future of the airline industry is being fought in the skies over Tokyo.

For months, American Airlines and Delta have waged a public bidding war for Japan’s flag carrier JAL—not to buy it, but to bail it out. Each has offered more than a billion dollars in cash for JAL’s loyalty. In American’s case, this means sticking with the Oneworld alliance; to Delta, it entails defecting to Skyteam. At stake is access to one of the world’s largest and most lucrative markets. (Despite the shinkasen barreling their way to Osaka and back every day, Japan still has one of the world’s largest domestic markets—fully loaded JAL 747s take off every hour for Sapporo.) American wants to cover its flank, while Delta is keen to protect the hub at Tokyo Nartia it acquired along with the rest of Northwest Airlines. It appeared this highly entertaining tussle would go on for quite a while, complicated by Japanese politics.


Surprise: the U.S. and Japan agreed last week on Open Skies.

In a nutshell, Open Skies means airlines can fly wherever and whenever they like without political restrictions. The U.S. and E.U. signed such an agreement last year; negotiations had been dragging on with Japan for nearly a decade. The advent of Open Skies should mean more flights, more destinations, and lower fares thanks to increased competition, especially considering United and Delta/Northwest would lose some of their special privileges. But that’s probably not going to happen.

As the Financial Times points out tonight, United and JAL’s more nimble rival ANA are racing to apply for an anti-trust exemption on closer cooperation on schedules, pricing, and strategy—a precondition of which is Open Skies. Both happen to be members of Star Alliance, and those ties will take precedence over competition between the two. The same thing is likely to happen with whomever successfully woos JAL—either American will keep it in the fold and strive for an even closer partnership, or Delta will steal it away, secure its dominance in Tokyo, and add another much-needed Asian partner to Skyteam.

Either way, the future of the airline industry is taking shape as you read this—airlines’ individual identities will begin to matter less than their alliance membership and partners. This might be old news to road warriors who don’t let any frequent flyer miles go to waste, but I’m curious to see if and when casual passengers start to notice.

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories:  |  Comments

About Greg Lindsay

» Folllow me on Twitter.
» Email me.
» See upcoming events.

Greg Lindsay is a generalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a 2022-2023 urban tech fellow at Cornell Tech’s Jacobs Institute, where he leads The Metaverse Metropolis — a new initiative exploring the implications of augmented reality at urban scale. He is also a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, a senior advisor to Climate Alpha, and a non-resident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative.

» More about Greg Lindsay


August 05, 2023

FT: Self-Created Communities for the Digital Age

August 03, 2023

Microtargeting Unmasked: A Threatcasting Report

August 01, 2023

At What Point Managed Retreat?

July 18, 2023

Prepare for Descent: The Relative Decline of the US Passport

» More blog posts

Articles by Greg Lindsay

-----  |  August 3, 2023

Microtargeting Unmasked

-----  |  July 1, 2023

2023 Speaking Topics

CityLab  |  June 12, 2023

Augmented Reality Is Coming for Cities

CityLab  |  April 25, 2023

The Line Is Blurring Between Remote Workers and Tourists

CityLab  |  December 7, 2021

The Dark Side of 15-Minute Grocery Delivery

Fast Company  |  June 2021

Why the Great Lakes need to be the center of our climate strategy

Fast Company  |  March 2020

How to design a smart city that’s built on empowerment–not corporate surveillance

URBAN-X  |  December 2019


CityLab  |  December 10, 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit

Harvard Business Review  |  September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

CityLab  |  July 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is… an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

» See all articles