Aviation consultant Robert Mann agreed with Horton that luring TAM to Oneworld was a big win for the alliance, already the most important alliance in Latin American.

"It's big because of the significance of Brazil and the growth rates in Latin American and the prospects for further consolidation in Latin America," Mann said. "I think we will see more changes as US Airways joins Oneworld."

Mann said Oneworld does have an advantage stemming from British Airway's strength at London Heathrow and Japan Airlines' strength at Tokyo Narita. "To some degree Oneworld is smaller, but typically the Oneworld constituents argue that it's more selective," he said. "They probably have the right approach. Ubiquity is overrated, and can cost more than its worth. If you want to go fishing, you should go fishing where the big fish are."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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