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American CEO: US Airways Lucks Out When It Joins Oneworld

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- As it leaves the Star Alliance for Oneworld and joins American (AAMRQ.PK) in a merger, US Airways (LCC) will find it's in a stronger alliance relationship, said American CEO Tom Horton.

In Oneworld, "American takes very much a leadership role," Horton said in an interview on Thursday. "Star is driven more out of the European side. We believe that (Oneworld) is a very special (alliance) where the best brands in the world operate."

Asked about Skyteam, Horton responded that he sees the competition in the alliance world as being primarily between Star and Oneworld. Spokesmen for Delta (DAL - Get Report) and United (UAL - Get Report) declined to comment.

Additionally, Horton called the March decision by TAM, Brazil's biggest carrier, to join Oneworld "the biggest alliance news of the decade.

"We will have more growth in Latin America," Horton said. "I feel very bullish about that. We have the pre-eminent position there and a very big win in alliance strategy." He said the presence of LATAM Aviation Group, especially with "TAM coming over, is a real boost for Oneworld."

An example of American's reliance on Oneworld is its operation at Los Angeles International Airport. Horton pointed out that American is growing at LAX, where its strategy is to rely heavily on international partners. Eight Oneworld partners -- Air Berlin, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysian and Qantas -- serve LAX.

Another indication of the close relationship between American executives and Oneworld was included in a bankruptcy court filing Monday, in which American laid out details of the courtship that preceded the pending merger. In October 2011, the month before American filed for bankruptcy protection, former American CEO Gerard Arpey called US Airways CEO Doug Parker and "encouraged Mr. Parker to consider the possibility of US Airways departing the Star Alliance and becoming a member of the Oneworld alliance as an initial step, but one that might result in a larger transaction sometime in the future."

Following US Airways' proposed move to Oneworld, the three global airline alliances would be evenly balanced in terms of their share of U.S. passengers flying to other countries. Star, which includes United, would have 36%, down from 45%. Oneworld would have 34%, up from 26%. Skyteam, which includes Delta, would remain at 30%. Despite the approaching numerical equilibrium, American executives led by Horton and Arpey have long made the case that Oneworld member airlines, and their hubs, hold more allure for business travelers.
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