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Air India to join Star Alliance in June, Tata-Singapore to follow..?

By David Flynn     Filed under: air india, star alliance

Air India could join the Star Alliance as early as June this year, according to a new timeline shared by none other than Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab.

"Without giving a specific date, one can say that we will complete all the ground work and formalities of Air India’s entry into the Star Alliance club by this summer" Schwab told journalists during a press briefing in Mumbai.

"After that, they will be ready to join straight away."

Schwab also hinted that another Indian airline could soon join the Star Alliance family, although he allowed that no such discussions were currently taking place.

Asked if India's new Tata-Singapore Airlines joint venture was be a prospective candidate – considering that Singapore Airlines is one of Star's mostly prized members – Schwab suggested that Tatat-SIngapore Airlines should start operating first, then cryptically added that "it is not necessarily an obvious choice... we will have to see who adds value to the Alliance."

Also read: How to get Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer status with one flight!

Second time's the charm

This will be Air India's second chance to join the Star Alliance group  as the airline coalition scrambles for a large piece of the growing Indian air travel market.

The Indian airline first signed on to Star Alliance in December 2007 but the process ground to a halt after almost four years, with the airline's application for membership suspended in July 2011.

Now it's "all systems go" once again.

Rohit NandanAir India, which earlier this year began Australia's first Boeing 787 service between Sydney and Melbourne and New Delhi, has already upgraded its IT systems to be compatible with those of other Star members, one of the larger hurdles faced by any airline joining any alliance.

A lot of the work that was done for joining Star Alliance, like upgrading the IT systems, needed to be done anyway to become a modern airline" explained Rohit Nandan, Air India's chairman and managing director.

“We are satisfied with the changes made by Air India in the last year" Schwab said. "Star Alliance has also changed some membership requirements, and all our 28 members have voted unanimously in favour of Air India."

However, Air India must still align some 75 "core values" related to passenger services to bring them up to Star Alliance standards.

"As for our customer experience, I believe there is always room for improvement" Nandan admitted.

Star eyes more Indian travellers

Nearly 37 million international passengers travel to and from India each year, with a third of those passengers flying on Air India and Jet Airways, Air India's local competitor which late last year sold a 24% stake to Etihad.

Star Alliance is reported to have only a 13% share of the country's total international traffic, with rivals OneWorld and SkyTeam holding 8% each.

The remainder belongs to international airlines which are not affiliated with any of the three alliance families.

Finding an Indian partner has been troublesome for alliances.

Oneworld had pinned its hopes on high-flyer Kingfisher, which as recently as December 2011 enjoyed the the second largest share in India's domestic air travel market, but suspended the airline's membership application in early 2012 as the airline's growing losses exceeded US$1 billion.

Following a series of shut-downs, strikes and employee lock-outs, Kingfisher's aviation licence was withdrawn in October 12 and its international flying rights and domestic slots scrapped by Indian aviation authorities in February 2013.

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 22/1/14 by Alvin

Way to go, Air India! Star has a new airline, and Air India has a new alliance. Congratulations to Nandan and his team and it's a win-win situation (Star and Air India both have benefits).

1 on 23/1/14 by tronixstuff

They haven't joined until they've joined. 

1 on 23/1/14 by Alvin

Okay then, but it's still good news. Way to go!

2 on 23/1/14 by hutch

I have not heard good things about Air India... Star* can have them, but I'd be annoyed if in the unlikely event I got moved from a Singapore flight to an Air India flight. Big difference in standards.

1 on 23/1/14 by Darkavid99

Hutch, think of the advantages. 7 hours of non stop bollywood movies!

1 on 23/1/14 by hutch

Lol, so true... I need to broaden my thinking!

2 on 23/1/14 by Libertyscott

Air India has the cheapest fares in business class between London and Australia at the moment, and there are good reasons for that.   Transit in India is a nightmare and from accounts I have heard, Air India is abysmal in ground service or when things go wrong.  I bumped into a contingent of passengers at Melbourne Airport who were stranded because of delays with Air India.

It's all very well *A wanting a major airline in the Indian market, but if you compare with China, when Air China joined *A it was head and shoulders above where Air India is today. 

I'd be astonished if Air India aligns to the 75 "core values" in time.  Strategically this may make sense in the longer term, but for now it devalues the alliance.

1 on 24/1/14 by eminere

The state of their B787 aircraft is also a sorry sight.  There are pictures a passenger took floating around that show seat numbers on the plane written down onto masking tape and then stuck to the overhead bins.


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