Co-evolution of Strategic Alliance Between Multiple Partners in the Same Industry: A Case Study of a Global Airline Alliance: The Star Alliance Open Access
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This single qualitative case study examined the co-evolution of the Star Alliance from 1997 through 2010. Data consisted of historical documentation and in-depth interviews of nine individuals connected with the Star Alliance and the commercial aviation industry. Validation methods, including member checks, triangulation, and peer review, were used to ensure trustworthiness.Four main findings were revealed. (1) The Star Alliance co-evolved as a complex adaptive system. Both the alliance and its airline members were in constant evolution and had to self-organize and adapt to their complex environment. As complex adaptive systems, the Star Alliance and its members created ways to collaborate, survive the industry cycles, and adapt to a very competitive, dynamic, unpredictable, and globalized world environment marked by uncertainty. (2) The Star Alliance transformed the competitive landscape in the commercial aviation industry, paving the way for increasing competition between global airline alliances rather than between individual airlines. (3) The Star Alliance allowed for expanding global outreach and cooperation. (4) The Star Alliance offered numerous benefits to both passengers and airline members. Two factors appeared to be especially important motivators for joining an alliance: the strict regulatory restrictions in several countries that limit foreign ownership and the ability to access new markets at a low risk and minimum investment. Throughout its co-evolution, the Star Alliance expanded its global reach by serving more destinations as well as responding to global demands by providing more benefits for travelers and its airline members.This empirical case study contributes to the current literature by (1) adding to the limited research on how strategic alliances in the form of constellations co-evolve and on what exogenous and endogenous factors affect their co-evolution; (2) drawing upon complexity theory to consider the Star Alliance as a complex adaptive system; and (3) applying a multilevel analysis at both the meso level (i.e., the Star Alliance) and macro level (i.e., the commercial aviation industry). This approach adds to the emerging research on the co-evolution of strategic alliances and the need for multiple levels of analysis in organizational and strategic management theories.