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THAI Smile Airways to be Star Alliance 'connecting partner'

Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of Thai Airways, looks set to become the next Connecting Partner in the Star Alliance. (Bangkok Post photo)

SEOUL: THAI Smile Airways, a subsidiary of Thai Airways, looks set to become the next "Connecting Partner" in the Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline network, it was announced at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) meeting in Seoul on Sunday.

Star Alliance chief executive officer Jeffrey Goh said the alliance’s chief executive board met on the sidelines of the 75th IATA annual general meeting and approved THAI Smile’s application to join the Connecting Partner programme..

The model, created by Star Alliance in 2016, is intended to complement its network of full members, which have commercial ties with every other airline in the alliance. Connecting Partners need only to have commercial relationships with a minimum of three other carriers.

Customers travelling on an itinerary which includes a transfer between a Star Alliance member airline and a Connecting Partner will be offered standard alliance benefits, such as issuance of boarding passes for connecting flights at check-in and automatic baggage transfer.

Once all entry requirements are fulfilled, expected by the end of the year, THAI Smile will become the second Connecting Partner after Juneyao Airlines, which was admitted in 2017.

Connecting Partners allow the Star Alliance to close gaps in the network that may exist in certain regions. 

When THAI Smile launched in 2011, parent company Thai Airways said it was intended to bridge the gap between budget carriers and full-service airlines. THAI Smile now serves 11 destinations in Thailand and 16 destinations in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and India.

Mr Goh said THAI Smile's admission to the Star Alliance’s Connecting Partner programme was a major step forward. 

“It’s valuable to have (THAI Smile) join the Star Alliance,” Mr Goh said, adding that inducting subsidiary airlines would fill regional gaps in the alliance network.

“I’m pleased to announce that THAI Smile is set to become the next Star Alliance Connecting Partner, which will support us in further strengthening our position as the leading airline alliance network,” Mr Goh said. 

THAI Smile acting CEO Charita Leelayudth said the airline was delighted that the Star Alliance chief executive board gave it the green light.

He said joining the programme was a win-win situation for both the airline and the Star Alliance. 

THAI Smile is implementing the necessary technology and commercial links to allow the carrier to begin serving Star Alliance connecting passengers in 2020. By then, he said, the airline will offer privileges to qualifying Star Alliance Gold Status passengers travelling on connecting flights, including priority check-in, THAI Smile lounge access and priority baggage delivery.

THAI is one of the founding members of Star Alliance.

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