New Delhi, Dec. 13: Air India is finally joining the coveted Star Alliance after a wait of almost six years, giving a boost to its turnaround efforts.
At a meeting in Vienna, the alliance, comprising 28 global carriers, decided to lift an earlier suspension of the process of Air India’s entry into the exclusive group.
With this decision, the final process for Air India’s entry has begun. Once the airline becomes a member, Air India passengers will enjoy a host of flying privileges. They will have a hassle-free experience while switching flights at major airports; get more frequent flyer mileage points; greater access to code sharing leading to a wider choice of flights as well as facilities at over 1,000 lounges worldwide.
The Star Alliance network offers 21,900 daily flights to 1,328 airports in 195 countries. Established in 1997, it is the biggest alliance of airlines.
“In order to become a member, an airline is required to meet and comply with high standards of customer service, security and technical infrastructure in the industry,” an AI statement said.
“Today we see an Air India which has successfully completed its merger with Indian Airlines and is building up a new fleet that forms the basis for a much improved level of service. This is why we believe the time is now right to recommence the integration process,” Mark Schwab, Star Alliance CEO, said after the board meeting of the grouping in Vienna.
Air India chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan, who is also in the Austrian capital, said, “Today is a historic day for Air India. The decision to recommence the Star Alliance integration process will be beneficial for both sides. We are grateful for the warmth, support and encouragement with which all Alliance members have welcomed the decision.”
The national carrier had started working on the technical formalities as early as in 2007 and was originally slated to join the alliance in 2010. However, it had trouble meeting major membership standards, especially those relating to IT system integration. The alliance in August 2011 announced that it was suspending Air India’s integration into its network.
The alliance had claimed that AI did not have an integrated IT system between the erstwhile domestic operations and its international operations.
This integration process was completed in February this year. Lufthansa was mandated to be the mentor airline for AI in the alliance.
Air India’s passenger revenue was up 22 per cent in July-September and its market share grew 1.3 points from 18.5 per cent.
Its average network occupancy factor also went up by 3.8 percentage points at 72.5 per cent compared to 68.7 per cent last year. While its domestic occupancy factor was higher by 8.7 points, it was higher by 1.6 points on the international sector. The airline's on-time performance also showed an improvement by touching 83 per cent.