Star Alliance plans more Asian partners

The Star Alliance is in negotiations with Air China and Asiana Airlines to expand its presence in Asia. The state-owned Chinese carrier could join the world's largest airline grouping "in the medium-term" while Asiana could become a member fairly soon, said Lufthansa chief Juergen Weber at the Star Alliance fifth anniversary celebrations last week. In Europe, LOT is due to join to improve coverage of Eastern Europe while South African Airways is a potential partner for Asia. But Weber said he saw no need to fill the gap left in Australia by the closure of Ansett since the continent was well-served by Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways. Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht said the alliance had proved itself in the crisis following September 11 since its passenger decline of 6-8% was lower than that of other carriers.