THAI Smile Joins Star Alliance As A Connecting Partner

The regional low-cost carrier THAI Smile has been announced as a Star Alliance Connecting Partner. It joins Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines as the second carrier to participate in the program. 

Thai Smile Aircraft
THAI Smile joins Star Alliance program as a Connecting Partner. Photo: Rawipad C.KKU via Wikimedia

Official welcome

As reported by Airports International, on February 25, THAI Smile Airways was officially welcomed as a Star Alliance Connecting Partner. The event was celebrated with a traditional Thai performance at the THAI Airways International headquarters in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district. 

“Our Connecting Partner model was introduced three years ago to offer airlines an attractive way to connect to our global alliance network without requiring full membership, and we are continuing to expand the model to provide customers with more travel options. I am pleased to welcome THAI Smile Airways today as a Star Alliance Connecting Partner.” Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh, said at the event. 

THAI Smile Aircraft
Owner airline THAI International intends for THAI Smile to take on a greater role in the region. Photo: Getty Images

Regional expansion

THAI Smile Airways is the second airline to be affiliated with the Star Alliance Connecting Partner program. It joins the Shanghai-based Juneyao airlines that was brought into the Star Alliance extended fold when the Connecting Partner Model was first introduced in May 2017.

THAI Smile is a Thai regional low-cost airline. It began operations in 2012 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of THAI Airways. It offers nearly 400 flights weekly to 32 destinations in nine countries. Its affiliation with the group will expand the Star Alliance network by ten new destinations. Its owner, THAI Airways, has plans to further expand the role of the airline in the region. 

“As for our future plans, THAI Smile Airways will be further developed as a leading regional airline that flies domestically in THAI’s stead and as a networking flight operator,” said Mr. Damrongchaitham, THAI President. He further stated that THAI Smile Airways, with its ‘Thai hospitality’ services, is comparable to and has the same standards as THAI.

Connecting Partner Model

The Connecting Partner Model allows passengers traveling under a single booking with a Star Alliance member and the partner airline to check baggage through to final destination. It also affords Silver and Gold Star Alliance bonus members to enjoy a tailored subset of privileges. 

According to Star Alliance’s website this set-up is currently available on eligible connections between THAI Smile and Austrian, Lufthansa, SWISS and THAI Airways Intl., as well as between Juneyao Airlines and Air Canada, Air China, All Nippon Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines and United.

100th 787
THAI Smile joins Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines in the program. Photo: Juneyao Airlines

Suspended connections

THAI Smile’s companion in the program, Juneyao Airlines, has recently had to delay the launch of three new European routes due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. According to BBC News, the global airline industry has warned that airlines stand to lose $29.3bn due to Covid-19. Airlines in China and other parts of the Asia Pacific region are expected to take most of the impact. THAI Smile has suspended all flights to and from mainland China during February 1-29. 

Rivaling alliance programs

A similar program to the Star Alliance Connecting Partner model was introduced by oneworld in 2018, ‘oneworld connect’, with Fiji Airways as its to date only partner airline. It requires potential additions to gain the endorsement and sponsorship of at least three oneworld alliance members to be considered for partnership.