When taxiing at Hong Kong Airport in April, I came across an HK Express plane with a U-Fly Alliance livery on it. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but did some research a few days later to find that U-Fly Alliance was a legitimate airline alliance that seemed to be progressing at a moderately fast rate.
Hong Kong Express Airbus A320 Hong Kong Airport
Naturally I was inclined to do a little bit of research, and it looks like a few more “big” airline alliances could be in the making.
What is the U-Fly Alliance?
The U-Fly alliance is an alliance of airlines focused on low-fare travel. The airline was founded by HK Express, Lucky Air, Urumqi Air and West Air in January 2016, though HK Express seems to be the the leader of the pack. All founding airlines are part of the HNA Airline Group, which Hainan Airlines runs, though EASTAR Jet joined last July. There haven’t been many updates as of the past year, so I’m curious as to how much progress they are making.
The alliance runs like any other – you can book flights operated by U-Fly Alliance airlines on any U-Fly Alliance airline website, at least in theory (I haven’t come across any route on any of the four other airlines on the HK Express website, and I’ve searched quite a few). Presumably you will be able to redeem flights on any of the airlines with HK Express’ Reward-U programme, but I haven’t found anything with any success.
A nine-hour layover in Hong Kong is less “Fun” when you can also get from Kunming to Phuket directly on Lucky Air, another U-Fly Alliance founding airline
The brand seems to be simple – the guest is addressed as “U”, so it’s a tacky way to tackle a current audience. I personally think it’s executed terribly, but I wasn’t expecting much from an alliance I’d heard nothing about.
I’ll let the alliance introduce themselves, as per their website:
The U-FLY Alliance is an alliance of Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) that is all about U, our Guest. Offering U an expanded network for low-fare travel across Asia, whether for leisure, business, or visiting friends and relatives. Flying solo, as families, or in groups – large and small. Providing U with much greater choice for low-fare travel by combining the networks of independent LCC’s.
What comparable alliances are there?
There are other low-cost carrier alliances out there, consisting of Value Alliance and Alliance Vanille (the latter isn’t really a low-cost carrier alliance, but it’s run so poorly that I’m going to consider it as one as well). Value Alliance consists of Scoot, Nok Air, NokScoot, Cebu Pacific, Jeju Air, Tigerair and Vanilla Air, and it seems to be run fine (Scoot, Nok Air and Tigerair are bound rather tightly, while the rest still seem to be working out their ties with online booking).
Scoot Boeing 787-9 Taipei Taoyuan Airport
Alliance Vanille features Air Madagascar, Air Mauritius, Air Austral, Air Seychelles and Int’l Air Îles, but I don’t really see any ties there at all – after all, there is a reason why I haven’t heard of this alliance at all.
The U-Fly Alliance doesn’t seem well run at all, and seems to have been forgotten about entirely since the beginning of 2016. That said, none of the other low-cost alliances are especially reputable either, so I’ll leave it at that.
Do alliances even matter anymore?
This question stumps me, as it’s been throwing around across the aviation blogosphere. People are now saying that different airlines are now partnering with each other across different alliances – I’m pretty sure you can find more of a correlation between Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express than with HK Express and any other airline that the U-Fly Alliance owns. I doubt there’s much potential revenue that you can get across these alliances, when they can’t even deliver as promised (U-Fly Alliance promised that you can soon book one another’s flights through any website owned by the U-Fly Alliance).
It’s interesting to see some of these new alliances pop up, and I’m interested to see what the industry can do with them. I’m very doubtful that anything revolutionary will happen, especially with the U-Fly Alliance, though I’m interested if anything happens within the next few years.