Malaysia Airlines is set to join the oneworld airline alliance, with the airline announcing its move this morning during the annual IATA airline industry conference in Singapore.
MAS CEO Tengku Azmil, who presented the news alongside Qantas boss Alan Joyce, says the airline's oneworld membership is expected to be completed within 12-18 months.
Oneworld is the smallest of the three major airline alliances, behind Star Alliance and SkyTeam; Qantas, American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific are founding members and the linchpins of the oneworld network.
The move will lead to easier transfers and codeshares between oneworld founding airline Qantas and MAS, primarily through MAS' hometown hub of Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia Airlines has already announced plans to fly Airbus A380 aircraft from KL to London and Amsterdam, with Sydney also currently served by the Boeing 747 aircraft that the A380 will replace.
The airline is also placing its newest Airbus A330 aircraft on Australian routes this year. Business travellers can expect many of these flights to also have Qantas' QF flight codes when the oneworld entry is finalised.
Membership in oneworld will also open up point-sharing and reciprocal lounge agreements between Malaysia Airlines' Enrich frequent flyer program and those of Qantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and other oneworld partners.
MAS' Enrich Silver tier is expected to match up with oneworld Ruby (Qantas Silver); Enrich Gold to oneworld Sapphire (Qantas Gold); and Enrich Platinum to oneworld Emerald (Qantas Platinum).
That'll also mean that Qantas Frequent Flyers will have access to Malaysia Airlines' lounges in Kuala Lumpur -- recently tipped as some of the best lounges in the world by guidebook writers Frommers.
Malaysia Airlines is currently one of Virgin Australia's Velocity Rewards partners, and had been tipped as one of the Asian airlines being eyed as Virgin's next joint venture partner.
It's unclear as yet whether MAS will remain as a Velocity partner now that the airline has joined the oneworld alliance, or whether ties with Virgin Australia will be cut in favour of Qantas.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.