In spite of the brands-are-bad counterculture movement, led by New Left disciples of Naomi Klein and her book 'No Logo', the fact remains that branding is one of the most powerful market tools around. A very familiar brand is more likely to be purchased than a somewhat familiar one, and a somewhat or very unfamiliar brand is least likely of all to be purchased.
Some brands are so powerful that people can draw an association between the name and a slogan or image: American and its legendary 'Something Special in the Air'; British Airways and 'The World's Favourite Airline'; Qantas and its kangaroo; Singapore Airlines and its 'Singapore girls' in its magazine ads.
Other brands aren't so strong: Olympic is obviously associated with Greece, but is otherwise an obscure brand. TAP Air Portugal is only strong in Portugal itself and presumably among Portugese expatriates elsewhere. In Latin America, standalone brands like Avianca lack the market power of the U.S. carriers and face pressure from evolving multinational brands like LAN and TACA.
Should some of the weaker airlines around the world -- the more obscure ones that many people are only dimly aware of -- drop their brand names and become franchises for strong brands? The existing companies would remain owner-operators of their own aircraft, but would adopt another company's service standards, brand-name, scheduling and reservation systems, marketing initiatives, frequent-flyer programs and so on.
Could this even become a new revenue source for strong brand names -- selling their name and market power to smaller carriers, without the risk of investing in new aircraft or taking an ownership stake?