Low-Cost Alliances Could Be The Kickstart A Post COVID Recovery Needs

Right now, there’s just one low-cost alliance in the world. The pan-Asian Value Alliance, powered by Air Black Box, has enabled travelers to connect on a low-cost itinerary from disparate points throughout the Asian continent. But with self-connection on the rise and many of us facing a future with less money to travel, could more low-cost alliances be the catalyst carriers need for a recovery from the crisis?

Flair Airlines
Could closer ties between low-cost carriers help them survive COVID? Photo: Flair Airlines

Air Black Box

Launched around nine years ago, Air Black Box is the backbone of the Value Alliance, an alliance of low-cost carriers in Asia and, to date, the only low-cost alliance in the world. Air Black Box’s technology enables small, disparate airlines with separate booking and management systems to communicate with each other, allowing them to assemble connecting flights in a unified environment.

For passengers, this means that a low-cost itinerary can be built from the ground up, taking them to and from the most remote and unusual airports with ease. While major airports and to some extend secondary airports are usually well connected by mainline carriers and feeder airlines, those remote and out-of-the-way locations are often only served by tiny carriers, unaligned by codeshares or partnerships, therefore requiring a secondary booking to be made.

Value alliance
The Value Alliance is the only low-cost alliance in the world. Photo: Value Alliance

Having a functional piece of technology that allows this interlining to happen has benefits for both airlines and passengers. For the passengers, there’s no longer the risk of missing a flight because of a delay down the line. Bags can be checked through and bookings link together seamlessly.

For airlines, it means that even the smallest, most niche carrier can have its network massively expanded. Suddenly bigger airlines are feeding into it, and happy passengers are making use of their services to the more ‘off the beaten track’ locations. It’s worked brilliantly in Asia but is yet to take off anywhere else.

Could a low-cost alliance work elsewhere post-COVID?

Simple Flying caught up with Head of Design of Air Black Box, David Vis, to discuss his thoughts on the future of flying. As airlines come out of the COVID crisis, David believes that closer partnerships between low-cost carriers could aid the recovery process. He told me,

“I do think in terms of low-cost, people are going to be looking for lower-cost flying options when the flying market opens up again. In times of stress in industries, the ones that succeed are those that offer a product for the times. or I think the writing on the wall is clear people are going to have a lot less money to fly.”

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It can be inconvenient and risky to build a low-cost itinerary. Photo: GOL Linhas Aereas.

With technology like Air Black Box in the mix, passengers would be able to book itineraries on multiple low-cost carriers, without the need for separate itineraries. It’s taken off in Asia, and there are other markets primed to join in. For the carriers, it could make low-costs a far more attractive prospect, thanks to the expansion of their networks. As David said,

“It’s strength in numbers.”

Let’s get something straight here; this is not virtual interlining a la Kiwi.com. This is what David calls ‘managed interlining,’ where the airlines are in control, and the passengers are looked after. Connections are guaranteed for passengers and their baggage, creating a seamless service, far more in line with what you would expect from an alliance of full-service airlines.

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Increasing numbers of passengers are self connecting, which is fine until something goes wrong. Photo: Unsplash

And this sort of travel is on the rise. ACI Europe noted a 200% increase in self-connection in the past 18 months in Europe alone. OAG estimated that 40% of passengers have self-connected in the past few years and that this is a growing trend among the younger passenger groups too. With younger travelers predicted to return to the leisure market first, this is one trend of which low-cost airlines need to be acutely aware.

More low-cost alliances could not only stimulate business for the airlines themselves but could also remove the risk and inconvenience associated with forming a self-connecting itinerary. Let’s hope some are ready to take the plunge and help us fly cheaper in the post-COVID world.

Would you like to see low-cost alliances in other parts of the world? Where do you think it would work? Let us know in the comments.