CATHAY Pacific Airways is considering joining forces with some of the world's largest air carriers in the Star Alliance, the biggest international airline grouping, as the Hong Kong firm faces its toughest year. Cathay Pacific spokesman Kwan Chuk-fai said the airline had been in talks with Star Alliance members, as well as other independent airlines, with a view to forming strategic partnerships. But no decision had yet been taken. 'We have an open mind about various options and the Star Alliance is one of them,' Mr Kwan said. 'We have been talking to many carriers and we don't have any decision at the moment. We always keep our options open.' Mr Kwan's comments followed a recent meeting of the six-member Star Alliance in Bangkok, after which it was announced that a new member, preferably an Asian airline, was being sought. Star Alliance groups Thai Airways International, Lufthansa, United Airlines, Scandinavian Airline Systems (SAS), Air Canada and Varig of Brazil. A decision on the new member will be taken at the next meeting, between May 13 and May 15 in Copenhagen. United Airlines president John Edwardson said the new member probably would be from Asia as the region still had growth potential. The alliance, part of a growing trend, aims to make joint use of facilities and services. It includes code-sharing arrangements and shared air-miles programmes as well as mutual use of other facilities. It is considered an attractive alliance because of its strong catchment area and access to principle traffic flows. Cathay is suffering the effects of the regional economic slump, with passenger numbers dropping fast while foreign costs are soaring following currency devaluations. Cathay recently announced plans to lay off 760 of its 16,000 staff worldwide, 460 of them based in Hong Kong. Net profit in the first half of last year fell 35 per cent but profit in the second half is expected to have declined more steeply because of plunging regional currencies and Hong Kong's tourism slump. Strong competition for alliance membership in the region could come from Singapore Airlines which has ties with leading alliance member Lufthansa. Under an agreement reached last November, the German carrier is to set up a new Asian regional headquarters in the city state, while Singapore Airlines will use Frankfurt as its continental European hub.