World Cup showdown between airline alliances


Dutch airline KLM scrambled to put on extra planes to South Africa today after the Netherlands reached the World Cup final, as airline alliance bosses limbered up for their own superjumbo clash.

Spain and Germany will battle for the other final place tonight and the result could mean a multi-million-dollar windfall for airlines as thousands of extra fans flock to Johannesburg’s Soccer City in the hope of finding tickets.

Yesterday’s victory over Uruguay put Netherlands in the July 11 final for the first time since 1978, provoking a clamour from people desperate to join an army of orange-clad Dutch fans. KLM’s website was quoting 4000 euros for an economy ticket leaving on Friday and returning on Tuesday, but seats were available for about 1450 euros with a longer stay.

The closing stages of the competition mirror a showdown between the world’s three major airline alliances, each of which has a flag carrier representing one of the remaining teams. KLM is part of the Skyteam alliance together with sister airline Air France. The two airlines merged in 2004.

Iberia is part of the “oneworld” global airlines club together with its planned merger partner British Airways and Germany’s Lufthansa is part of the Star Alliance alongside South African Airways. KLM said it would add four flights offering a total of 1,000 seats to Johannesburg, three from Amsterdam and one from Paris.

KLM partner Air France already operates the Airbus A380 superjumbo daily from Paris to Johannesburg and could bring in another 250-seat Boeing 777-200, a spokeswoman said. Lufthansa flew the German team to South Africa on its newly delivered flagship A380 last month and is hoping the world’s largest airliner will bring luck to the youthful German squad. “If they win the Cup, we have promised to bring the team back again on the A380,” said spokesman Jan Baerwalde.