British Airways expects new partners in a global alliance that it and four other international airlines will form in the near future, Robert Ayling, the carrier’s chief executive, said Tuesday.

The other charter members of the Oneworld alliance, announced in September, are American Airlines, Canadian Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and Qantas Airways.

It is widely speculated that Japan Airlines Co., which has announced plans to form a comprehensive alliance with American Airlines, will join the new consortium. JAL, however, continues to say it will compare the benefits of bilateral or multilateral alliances.

How big the alliance might become also remains a question. “I don’t know what the right size for a global alliance is,” Ayling said. “It is more than five, which is the current number. And it is no doubt less than 50. “We anticipate one or two new members will be announced very soon, one of them very soon indeed. After that, we will expect to grow slowly.”

Ayling did not name specific airlines that might be drawn into the alliance.

Under the alliance framework, carriers will, among other things, collectively offer frequent flier programs, adopt a code-sharing system and share airport lounges.

Concerning British Airways’ partial suspension of service to and from Japan, Ayling noted that the carrier is re-evaluating the profitability of all routes and, in the case of Japan, it is focusing on the Tokyo market.

In late October, British Airways suspended service between Osaka and London and between Nagoya and London while increasing flights between Tokyo and London to 14 a week. “We all know that our industry suffered, as (Japan has) suffered, from the financial crisis in this part of the world,” Ayling said. “The critical question for us is profitability. We were losing heavily on both Osaka and Nagoya. This is a critical test which we will apply to all routes.”

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