USAir joins forces with 12 Latin American carriers


Seeking to make a bigger dent in the Central and South American markets, USAir is teaming with 12 Latin American carriers to allow passengers to accumulate frequent flier points on each other's airlines.

The agreement was announced in Miami by USAir and LatinPass Inc., a consortium of frequent flier programs for a dozen carriers. The move is expected to help USAir attract more Latin American passengers. Those travelers frequently visit the East Coast, USAir's strongest territory.

"These carriers will bring USAir new passengers," Randy Petersen, editor of Inside Flyer, a Colorado Springs, Colo., magazine which tracks frequent flier programs, said yesterday. "This shows USAir is making good marketing moves that will probably serve them, long, long down the road."

Indeed, Central and South America are seen as strong growth area. And the financially struggling USAir has already beefed up its commitment to that market through code sharing and marketing agreements with some individual carriers. In addition, it has added more flights there.

The frequent flier point-sharing arrangement, effective Jan. 1, also is designed to help the Latin American carriers compete more effectively for American passengers, particularly in Miami where they have lost much of the market to large U.S. carriers, like American Airlines.

"LatinPass provides a major tool for the Latin American carrier members as they seek to remain competitive with the strong U.S. megacarriers serving the region," said J. Daniel Brock, vice president of marketing services for Arlington, Va.-based USAir.

The deal between USAir and LatinPass is an exclusive one.

USAir has 14 million members in its frequent flier program, while the 12 carriers of Latin Pass have several hundred thousand members in their programs.

While frequent flier points alone are not enough reason to fly a particular airline, they often determine a passenger's choice if other criteria, like schedules and fares, are competitive. Indeed, USAir's popular frequent flier program has been an as set as it struggles to retain passengers in its fierce fare war with Continental and Southwest Airlines.

Many U.S. carriers have teamed with international partners, sharing frequent flier points. LatinPass officials said they also are seeking agreements with European and Asian carriers. British Air, which already has a joint frequent flier program with USAir, is studying the LatinPass-USAir agreement.

The LatinPass member carriers are ACES (Columbia); Avianca (Columbia); Aviateca (Guatemala); COPA (Panama); Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (Bolivia); Lacsa (Costa Rica); Ladeco (Chile); LANChile Chile); Mexicana (Mexico); NICA (Nicaraqua); SAETA (Equador); and TACA (El Salvador).

Ladeco flies three times a week from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Santiago.

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