Benefits of the membership to kick in from July 11

Air India has finally been given the nod to become a part of Star Alliance. Entry to the exclusive international club consisting of 26 airlines including Lufthansa, Air Canada and Thai Airways, came at the end of a meeting of the Chief Executives’ Board of the member airlines in London on Monday.

The formal announcement of the membership was made by the Minister for Civil Aviation, Ashok Gajapathi Raju here on Tuesday.

Long journey

All the benefits of a Star Alliance membership will be available to Air India and its passengers from July 11 this year. Monday’s announcement marks the end of a journey that began in 2007, during which the Maharaja has seen its shares of ups and down. Air India had been inducted into the Star Alliance in Beijing in December 2007. But in August 2011, the airline’s application for membership was put on hold as it had not met the parameters contractually agreed to in 2007.

Monday’s nod means that Air India will become the first Indian carrier to be inducted into a global airline alliance. The three global airline alliances — oneworld, Star Alliance and Skyteam — have over the years wooed various Indian carriers.

Other invites

In September 2002, British Airways’ CEO, Rod Eddington met the then Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Hussain and discussed the possibility of Air India joining oneworld, an alliance of which BA is a member. A short while later Skyteam invited Air India to join its alliance. The then Chairman of Air India, K Roy Paul was invited to Paris to meet with the Skyteam alliance members.

In February 2010, the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines announced that it would soon be joining the oneworld alliance and had signed an MoU.

Airline alliances woo Indian carriers for the simple reason that India is a huge and growing market, and most international airlines cannot penetrate every nook and corner of the country. Having an Indian carrier as a member of an alliance facilitates transfer of passengers from the interiors of the country to an international airport from where passengers can take an onward flight either with the Indian carrier or board an international flight of a member airline.

Perks for passengers

Air India’s membership of the Star Alliance will provide seamless travel to passengers on the alliance’s 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 aircrafts. It is also estimated that by joining Star Alliance, Air India will gain an estimated annual 5 per cent increase in domestic and international passengers.

(This article was published on June 24, 2014)
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