The transition from alliance networks to multilateral alliances in the global airline industry


BAR - Brazilian Administration Review




This study examines conditions in which alliance networks (informal webs of bilateral entanglements between firms) may or may not evolve into multilateral alliances (broad, formal multiple-firm arrangements). I offer a theory to explain the formation of multilateral alliances based on both the resource profile and the structure of existing interfirm networks, and provide an initial test of that theory in the context of the global airline industry. Using data from 75 global airlines and their alliances, I propose a methodology to retrieve samples of alliance networks and then use regression analysis to assess how the resource profile and the structure of these networks influence their formalization into multilateral alliances. I find that multilateral alliances are more likely to emerge when alliance networks exhibit high resource diversity and network structure characterized by moderate density and high centralization. Apparently, while highly sparse networks reduce actors' awareness of their potential joint collaboration, highly dense or embedded networks substitute for the need for formal controls accompanying multilateral agreements. The effect of centralization suggests that the formation of multilateral alliances tends to be triggered by leading actors directly connected to other network members.

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