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Aeroflot Plays Down Reports It May Quit SkyTeam

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The three main global airline alliances face common problems and should work together to try to resolve them, the chief executive of Aeroflot said on Monday.

Vitaly Saveliev distanced himself from reports that Aeroflot planned to quit the SkyTeam alliance of 19 global airlines.

Daily newspaper Kommersant reported last month that Aeroflot was considering leaving SkyTeam because of unfavorable agreements with other members, in particular US carrier Delta Air Lines.

A source close to the Aeroflot board told Reuters news agency that the company saw no benefit from its membership, but that a decision to leave was not for management to take. Aeroflot's main shareholder is the Russian state.

"If we look at three current major alliances, SkyTeam, oneworld and Star, all three are facing similar problems," Saveliev told Reuters.

"One being the fight with terrorism and the overall security, safety issues. Another is the price of fuel and the third being the competition with other modes of transport like high-speed trains and cars," he added, speaking through an interpreter as the company announced a sponsorship of English soccer club Manchester United.

"It would be logical to let the alliances work closely together to address these issues," said Saveliev. "Maybe it was some of these ideas that we voiced that gave somebody the belief that we may be considering leaving the alliance."

The agreement to join SkyTeam in 2004 was signed in the Kremlin, a political stamp of approval largely due to close ties with France. Air France-KLM is a leading member of the group.

Kommersant cited sources close to Aeroflot's board of directors as saying the company was not happy with the development of its routes in the United States, where Delta charges relatively high fares.

(Reuters)