Logistics

India and Brazil are big and fast growing markets, says Star Alliance CEO

Ashwini Phadnis Frankfurt | Updated on January 11, 2018

Star Alliance Chief Executive Officer, Jeffrey Goh. (file photo)

We are constantly assessing to see whether one or two or even a third member will meet our purposes, he says

As Star Alliance, a club of 28 global airlines including Air India, celebrates its 20th anniversary, its Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Goh, met global media including the BusinessLine to outline the Alliance’s plans.

Edited excerpts

A lot of customer service issues have been raised by the various airlines with United being the big one? Has there been any discussion at the Star Alliance level on common standards of customer service?

We should recognise that there are certain operational matters that remain the prerogative of our members. In terms of cooperation, Star Alliance is not all encompassing.

On the issue of more standardised service levels it is not an exercise which is easy to achieve because our members are of different sizes, different cultural backgrounds and different business models. What you may expect as an on board service from an airline in Asia would be very different perhaps from an African airline. Hence it is very difficult to try and harmonise service standards.

In the case of United there has been a lot of interaction and exchange within the Alliance and what we draw from this is the opportunity to exchange best practices. The resulting new policy for this airline (United) is certainly one of communication and exchanges with other members in terms of the policy with regard to these sort of matters. The discussion was not across the Alliance but among members.

In a large country like India is one airline enough for the Alliance or will you look at having another partner?

We are constantly on the lookout. India and Brazil are big and fast growing markets. We are constantly assessing to see whether one or two or even a third member will meet our purposes.

Will that be from among a low cost carrier or will you again look at a full service airline?

The beauty of the Connecting Partner Model that we have today gives us the option of working either with a full service carrier or with, I will not call it a low-cost carrier, I will call it a hybrid carrier, on a more local or regional basis. (Launched in December 2015 the Connecting Partner Model allows airlines operated by “low-cost” and “hybrid” airlines to be able to connect to the Alliance network).

Is this driven by the fact that the partner you have in India is not meeting all the expectations?

We have not developed the Connecting Partner Model for the Indian market specifically. It was for us to address regionally the lowest cost platform that our members have been developing to make sure that the market share that is now in that segment (low cost) can continue to be part of Star Alliance.

If this strategy serves us in India or any other market then it will make sense to deploy it.

In the 20th year will Star Alliance look at advocacy as the Alliance has not really spoken on issues concerning the industry?

It will depend. If it is an industry issue we think that the better people to advocate it will be the International Air Transport Association or the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

But almost three-fourth of the passengers flown globally are on your partner airlines?

We do but it will have to depend on the issues.

Which are the issues?

Our voice may add but it is not going to change for instance the electronic devices ban. We have a view on this and we will share it with IATA and ICAO clearly.

What is your view?

Our members are concerned. Obviously this has an impact on operations and customer experience. From our perspective if this has a negative customer experience then we should be careful.

But it is positive for a number of your airlines (The laptop ban has seen passenger carriage increase on Air India)?

If you look at the latest coming out of Washington they are also thinking of extending the ban to Europe. We have a member from the United States as do the other alliances and they operate to many stations in Europe. If this ban or prohibition is to materialise it is going to affect them just as much as other airlines.

In its 20th year is Star Alliance now targeting 20-year-olds by shifting the focus to a digital experience?

As a business we have to adapt. If we continuously focus on the high value international travellers….you know your grey suits and the 45 and 55 year-olds then we are missing a very important segment of the market that is coming through.

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

Published on May 14, 2017

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