Air-India to wing it into Star Alliance. Link:


MUMBAI: After years of being a standalone carrier in the international aviation industry where airlines are rapidly aligning in various groups, Indian flag carrier Air-India is all set to join the Star Alliance. A top-level Star Alliance team, led by the CEO Jaan Albrecht, is currently at the Air-India headquarters in Mumbai for discussions on the modalities of the inclusion.

All of Star’s 18-member airlines have to approve the entry. Air-India’s entry is likely to be championed by Star Alliance founder member Lufthansa, which already has a close relationship with the Indian carrier through codesharing.

The Star Alliance CEO has earlier said that “India, Russia and China are white spots on the Star alliance network that need to be filled.” Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline grouping, currently runs 16,930 daily flights to 842 airports in 152 countries around the world.

Elaborating on the major benefits of the alliance for Air-India, airline sources said it would lead to a partnership with member airlines on issues ranging from marketing to joint sourcing of spares and fuel, potentially leading to a huge saving of millions of dollars.

Member airlines have an integration of airline frequent flier programmes, which is a major marketing tool for airlines. Miles can be earned and redeemed on all members of the Alliance at the same level. Premium customers have access to all members’ airport lounges. As the integration among members progress, flight schedules are co-ordinated to permit almost seamless travel which may include several different carriers within the alliance, on a single ticket.

Over the years Air-India’s global network has shrunk such that it is now largely focussed on the Gulf, parts of western Europe and four cities in the United States. The entry into the alliance will allow it to offer a much larger choice to its passengers. Air-India is also scheduled to begin a huge expansion resulting in the induction of 68 aircraft worth over $11bn over the next six years. The airline’s marketshare that has gone down to about 19% of the Indian overseas passenger market is expected to improve substantially.

“The merged entity formed after the merger of Indian Airlines and Air-India will eventually find place in the alliance that provides the widest airline network in the world today,” a highly placed Air-India source said. However, the process of integration into the alliance could take up to a year after it is approved. South African Airways was the most recent airline that joined the alliance in April this year. Airlines have to upgrade systems to certain common standards before the entry is permitted.