Putting an end to the long wait, national carrier Air India is likely to join the global network of airlines, Star Alliance by this summer season if all goes well.
“Without giving a specific date, one can say that we will complete all the ground work and formalities of Air India’s entry into Star Alliance club by this summer. After that, they will be ready to join straightaway,’’ Star Alliance CEO Mark F. Schwab told reporters hereon Sunday.
Way back in 2007, Air India was accepted as a future member of Star Alliance. However, the integration process was halted in July 2011 to enable it complete the merger with erstwhile Indian Airlines. The Maharaja was again invited to join the global alliance in December last year. The entry of Air India into the global airlines network would provide seamless travel by passengers on the alliance network of over 21,900 daily flights to 1,328 cities in 195 countries. Star Alliance has a combined fleet strength of over 4,700 aircraft.
Referring the process for integration of Air India, Mr. Schwab said this included all the frontline staff to undergo training to come up to date with Star Alliance requirements on various fronts. Air India would also have to get its fleet painted with Star Alliance livery and logo.
Air India chairman and managing director, Rohit Nandan said joining the alliance would significantly improve customer services, frequent flyer programme and brand value, besides providing seamless connectivity to air travellers.
Mr. Schwab said there could be another airline from India joining the alliance but at the moment, Star Alliance was not having any active discussion with any airline for getting a second carrier into its fold. Asked whether Tata-Singapore Airlines (SIA) venture could be a prospective candidate as SIA was a prominent member of the alliance, he indicated that the proposed airline should start operating first and "t is not necessarily an obvious choice.
Stating that the Indian market was evolving quickly, Mr. Schwab and Mr. Nandan said Air India, which offered 63 domestic and global destinations to the alliance, would also benefit from connecting to the numerous hubs of the alliance and provide seamless connectivity. At present, 13 members of the Star Alliance operate from ten Indian cities.