British Airways says it is in talks with Swissair over the possibility of the Swiss carrier joining its "oneworld" alliance. The news comes after SAirGroup called a halt to all new investments and acquisitions, following mounting losses among its partner airlines.
Speaking in London on Monday, British Airways chief executive, Rod Eddington, confirmed that talks were underway with Swissair but said it was too early to tell whether the Swiss carrier might join the alliance.
"We can rule nothing in, and nothing out," he told reporters at a press conference.
The "oneworld" alliance involves some of the biggest players in the airline market including British Airways, American Airlines, Iberia, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific.
Swissair's parent company, SAirGroup, refused to comment, saying only that it has already made it clear that it is looking at a number of alternatives to its existing Qualiflyer alliance group.
Patrick Schwindemann, an airline sector analyst at Zurich Cantonal Bank, told swissinfo that a link-up with "oneworld" was in the carrier's best interests.
"Swissair has several options like 'oneworld', the Star Alliance or Sky Team. But 'oneworld' makes the most sense because Swissair already has code share agreements with existing 'oneworld' partners like American Airlines. Also British Airways is looking for another partner in continental Europe."
News on the SAirGroup's review of operations is expected in March.
Last week, the group cancelled plans to invest in Portugal's TAP airline and Turkish Airlines, although they have reaffirmed their commitment to South African Airways and the Polish airline, LOT.
SAirGroup had said that it might consider allowing an outside investor to take a stake in Swissair to provide a cash injection. However, the company said it would not consider selling out majority control of the national flag carrier.
Some analysts have proposed British Airways as a possible investor, especially if Swissair goes ahead and joins the oneworld alliance.
"Usually alliance partners don't take bigger stakes in each other," explained Schwindemann. "But if consolidation goes further in the airline sector we could see more cross ownership. It also depends on SAirGroup and whether or not it makes taking a stake in Swissair a condition of it joining an alliance group."
The company announced a change of strategy two weeks ago, following the departure of its chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser. His resignation was followed at the weekend by Paul Reutlinger, the head of SAirGroup's three French subsidiary airlines.
Under Bruggisser, the company had been trying to improve its market position with a series of alliances with other airlines and by acquiring stakes in other carriers.
swissinfo with agencies