'We want to have 2 carriers within the Star Alliance family in India'

Ashwini Phadnis Frankfurt | Updated on November 25, 2017 Published on October 12, 2014

Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab

In a free-wheeling discussion with select Indian media persons, including the Hindu Business Line, Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab says that the alliance is open to the idea of having a second Indian carrier in its fold although it is not in active discussion with any airline at present.Edited excerpts from the interview:

Since the time we met last many issues, including the problems with the Boeing 787, have cropped up. Has Star Alliance raised a red flag to Air India on any issue?

I think Star Alliance carriers have the most number of Boeing 787 aircraft operating. As an industry, we know there have been teething problems with the new aeroplane but that has happened with every new aeroplane that has been put out in the market place. I come back to what I hear generally from the carriers that they like the economics of the aeroplane and they like its customer satisfaction rating. I hear within the family that the carriers are talking to one another comparing notes, what is the best practice, what is working and what is not working which is actually one of the benefits of being in Star Alliance.

Time to look for another carrier in India especially now that some low cost airlines are trying hybrid?

We have said from the very beginning that we have a two carrier policy in a market the size of India. We have many examples of large market places where we have more than one carrier.

If you consider the EU (which is) one big market we have many carriers operating here. Our intention in the long-term is to have two carriers at least within the Star family in India.

Long term would be how long?

I would say within the five-year horizon. I think the right way to put this is to say that we continue to have a desire to have a second carrier but right now we are not actually having any active discussion with any carriers in India.

Given that low-cost airlines are market leaders in India, is it time to consider a low cost airline as a second member for the Alliance?

I am not going to limit this to India. One of the trends that we are going to see in the Alliance world is us trying to find (what) I would describe more as hybrid type of carriers to fill selective gaps in our networks. Carriers that have a good solid network in a place that we are not already present in but which offer the basic services that we offer within the Alliance.

When you say hybrid do you rule out low cost carriers?

The thing we have to be careful about is that we have to make sure that the Star Alliance proposition that we promise on a worldwide basis is actually offered on a worldwide basis.

You do not want to be saying except in this place. The thing that we have to work out in alliances is how do you deal with priority services that are offered to our premium customers. How do you deal with priority boarding, priority baggage handling, how do you make sure there is lounge access at key airports. It does not mean that every single airport in the world that we operate to needs to have a lounge.

Your comments on the Indian Government’s policy of not allowing a domestic airline which has not completed five year of domestic operations and does not have 20 aircraft to fly abroad?

It is a policy of which I have seen versions in other places. I think there is a similar rule in Korea. The basic concept is okay -- prove to us you are a good domestic airline before you start serving internationally. Each country has to decide what is right for its market place.

(This Correspondent was in Frankfurt at the invitation of Star Alliance)

Published on October 12, 2014
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