Qantas intends to begin frequent flyer point sharing and reciprocal lounge access with Malaysia Airlines ahead of MAS' official entry into oneworld, but it's unlikely to happen this year.
MAS' oneworld membership, which is being sponsored by oneworld founding partner Qantas, is initially expected to take 12-18 months for full compliance.
"We've said that late next year is the official date, but we will aim to do the frequent flyer agreement earlier" says Stephanie Tully, Qantas' Head of Airline Loyalty. "But there's a lot of work that goes into that; I don't think that it will be 2011."
"Qantas is sponsoring Malaysian into oneworld so we will probably be the first airline to have the agreement with them, but there is still quite a bit of work to be done. I think 12 months is a realistic timeframe for that."
When complete, the arrangement will allow passengers on MAS to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer Points and also have access to MAS lounges according to their class of travel or Qantas Frequent Flyer status.
The membership tiers in Malaysia Airlines' Enrich programs are expected to line up against Qantas and oneworld, with MAS Enrich Silver equalling Qantas Silver and oneworld Ruby; Enrich Gold sitting against Qantas Gold and oneworld Sapphire; and Enrich Platinum matching Qantas Platinum and oneworld Emerald.
In the interim, Virgin Australia will wind down its current point-sharing relationship with MAS as the Australian challenger forges a new alliance with Singapore Airlines.