After months of industry speculation, Japan Airlines' (JAL) cargo division has confirmed its membership of the WOW air-freight alliance. The WOW network, launched in April, was formed by the key cargo airlines in the Star Alliance, including Singapore Airlines Cargo (SIA Cargo), Lufthansa Cargo and Scandinavia's SAS Cargo Group. But analysts said it was unlikely JAL's participation in the alliance would lead it into a wider partnership with Star on passenger services. JAL said its membership began on Friday. The Japanese flag carrier also pledged to play an 'active part in the [WOW] alliance's ongoing development'. The carrier said it was 'already co-operating in the WOW project team, which is at work harmonising the individual project portfolios, networking the partner airlines' [information technology] systems, standardising handling processes and exploiting synergies in sales'. Senior vice-president of JAL Cargo Juntaro Shimizu said: 'We believe that by this strategic step, we are able to enhance the global approach of JAL Cargo. 'By adding to WOW's . . . product portfolio . . . and worldwide air-cargo network, we will keep the pace of our customers' demands and the trends of globalisation.' WOW had its soft launch in October under the name New Global Cargo, but its official launch was postponed because of uncertainties following the events of September 11. Its strategy is little different from that of the passenger-oriented Star Alliance, which aims to pool member airline resources by network-sharing to create a seamless network as a result of interlining and code-sharing services. WOW allows customers to book services at the reservation centre of one carrier to all destinations within the combined network. The alliance's edge is the scale of its network. Lufthansa runs the world's biggest scheduled air-freight operation, while SIA Cargo is the third-largest. SAS is the dominant carrier within the technology-heavy export economies of northern Europe. By adding JAL to its membership, WOW can tap a critical freight link on transpacific trade between the United States, Japan and other East Asian economies. The addition of JAL means WOW has a combined fleet of 43 dedicated freighters and belly-hold space in more than 760 passenger airliners. In May, Lufthansa indicated WOW was in negotiations with a potential fourth partner. Analysts said the latest link was unlikely to generate a wider JAL association with Star. A regional aviation analyst said: 'Japan's cargo market is quite different from that of its passenger market. 'While Japan imports and exports to and from virtually everywhere in the world, JAL already does good business with Japanese passengers touring abroad and with foreigners visiting Japan. 'As such, it doesn't have any real pressure to substantively link its passenger services on to a global network.' However, airlines have faced pressure to accelerate the ramp-up of cargo operations in recent months, given that freight has offered the industry its biggest source of recovery since the beginning of the year. Participation in an alliance such as WOW would help airlines widen their networks faster than they could organically, leading quickly to increased sales. So far, however, the most ambitious of the cargo alliances is US Cargo Sales Joint Venture, a co-ordinated cargo sales effort in the US between Delta Airlines, Air France and Korean Air. In May, Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals, which handles more than 80 per cent of the SAR's air cargo, saw US-bound exports jump 53 per cent year on year. This boosted total throughput by 25 per cent to 152,177 tonnes. Also in May, cargo exports from Hong Kong International Airport jumped 32.7 per cent year on year. Total cargo throughput, which includes imports and exports, rose 25.1 per cent.