Many Australian business travellers would consider the best Christmas gift they could receive this year would be to hear that Virgin Australia was joining Star Alliance.
But they may have to settle for something less ambitious being left under the tree, with Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab (below) grinching out the bad news in an interview with travel trade website Skift.
"Domestic connectivity across the Australian market would be helpful to us" Schwab admitted, noting that the demise of Ansett Australia in 2001 had left Star with an obvious gap in its worldwide network.
Schwab continued that "There are only two major airlines in the Australian market. [Neither is] an obvious choice for us there."
(That other 'major airline' is of course Qantas, which is a founding member of the competing Oneworld alliance.)
Schwab's observations coincided with the announcement that Virgin Australia would enter a strategic partnership with Star Alliance member Air Canada – news which once again made many business travellers reflect on Virgin's alliance-free status.
However, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has consistently downplayed suggestions of joining Star Alliance or SkyTeam, saying he "doesn't see the merit" in any of the global airline alliances.
"You never say no to anything forever, but I just don't see the merit in it and I don't see what we would gain," Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller back in March 2014.
"Whatever alliance we might go into, we would have to forfeit at least one of the anti-trust immunity deals we've got (with current partner airlines) and I'm not about to do that, so I just don't see a business case for it."
Having stitched up his own bespoke alliance on a 'best fit' basis with partners including Air New Zealand, Delta, Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines, Borghetti described those one-to-one bilateral agreements as being "more more important that the multilaterals (of alliances)."
Star Alliance heavy-hitter Singapore Airlines hold a 20.09% stake in Virgin Australia, although Star sibling Air New Zealand sold out its stake in Virgin Australia in October 2016.
Virgin's US joint venture partner Delta belongs to SkyTeam, while Etihad Airways with a 21.83% stake belongs to none of the big three alliances.