The airspace above Asia is practically thick with budget airlines, so it was a no-brainer for the world's first alliance of low-cost carriers to get going on this side of the Pacific.
Totalling a combined fleet of 176 aircraft covering 160 destinations across Southeast Asia, northern Asia, Australia, India and the Middle East, the newly-minted Value Alliance brings together the Philippines' Cebu Pacific, Korea's Jeju Air, Thailand's Nok Air, Singapore's Scoot, NokScoot (Singapore and Thailand), TigerAir (Singapore and Australia), and Japan's Vanilla Air in a partnership that promises to simplify the Asian flight experience for travelers.
“Under Value Alliance, customers are empowered with the convenience of booking multi-destination itineraries on a range of flights offered by any of the alliance partners,” explains Hazel Gonzales, corporate communications manager for Cebu Pacific. “At the same time, customers will be able to select from the full range of service options for their booking.”
Benefits for Value Alliance Travelers
The alliance is the first such partnership between low-cost carriers. Prior to Value Alliance, interline agreements between two budget airlines were the best you could hope for, such as the existing partnership between Cebu Pacific and TigerAir, and the joint venture between Scoot and NokAir that brought forth NokScoot.
By allowing eight airlines to share interchangeable booking and ancillary services, Value Alliance blows all previous partnerships out of the water. When Value Alliance's website launches its booking services, travelers will enjoy the following benefits from participating budget airlines:
One booking, a wider-ranging itinerary. Book an itinerary on the Cebu Pacific site, and you'll only cover destinations reached by Cebu Pacific's and TigerAir's combined network. Book with Jeju Air, and you're on your own outside of its mostly Korea-based network.
With Value Alliance, you have a lot more to work with: travelers can book seamless itineraries through alliance members' combined 160-plus destinations via a one-stop-shop service.
“Guests will be able to view, select and book online the best-available airfares on the flights of any of the Value Alliance airlines in a single transaction,” Cebu Pacific's Hazel Gonzales tells us. “This accords customers of each airline more destinations, more routing options, and more convenience.”
Complete service options across airlines at your fingertips. Existing interline partnerships, like those between Cebu Pacific and TigerAir, allowed booking of flights between networks, but disallowed booking add-ons like meals or reserved seats.
That has all changed now. Value Alliance's booking interface allows travelers to buy flight add-ons from all partners: you can select seats, order meals, and buy baggage allowances across all partner airlines when building your itinerary.
Free rebooking in case of delays. When a delay occurs in one leg of your Value Alliance itinerary, you don't have to worry about additional costs rebooking the succeeding legs. “In the case of misconnections caused by a disruption or delay caused by the first carrying airline’s flight, the second carrying airline will rebook a passenger on its own next available flight at no charge,” explains Gonzales.
What It Won't Cover
It's in its early days yet, so Value Alliance's full capacity is still in the works.
Even when it's fully online, the alliance will not provide benefits given by other, longer-established airline alliances, such as common lounges and transferable airline miles: expensive perks that have no place in an alliance of budget airlines.
“The key thing is educating customers that this is not like the traditional alliance like Star Alliance, this is about sales and distribution,” says Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson. Thus, “each Value Alliance partner airline operates independently and will each retain its own distinctive operational culture, style of service and benefits including its loyalty programme,” explains Cebu Pacific's Gonzales.
This means your Cebu Pacific GetGo and TigerAir Stripes points can't be used with other Alliance airlines. The upside is this also means we won't be seeing the end of each airlines' special discounts anytime soon!
The Alliance also excludes some major regional budget airlines, like Australia's Jetstar, India's IndiGo and Malaysia's AirAsia. The last one, in particular, is equivalent in size and reach to Value Alliance's combined network and fleet, and so isn't likely to be joining up anytime soon. The door is open to future partners, though: "This is not a closed alliance," Wilson explains. "We are open to new members joining the alliance. Who and where obviously we cannot say yet.”
Value Alliance's Nuts and Bolts
None of this would have been possible without Air Black Box (ABB), the developer of the Air Connection Engine (ACE) that allows Value Alliance partners to collaborate in a combined route network that incorporates their entire inventory.
The system's key breakthrough, explains ABB co-founder Timothy O’Neil Dunne, is the ability to “provide a distribution service so that the airline PSS [passenger service system] does not have to change, that is no infrastructure cost change [for the airlines].”
“The technology enables us to interface with other airlines within the Value Alliance, including those using different PSS, to provide a solution to a guest's travel query – even on routes Vanilla Air may not itself serve to connect Japan to the rest of Asia Pacific,” remarks Vanilla Air president Katsuya Goto.
To find out more about the partnership and its technology (and eventually create an Asian budget airline itinerary of your own), visit the official Value Alliance website. There's no booking functionality for now, but that will change very, very soon.