In a significant decision, Air India was inducted into the Star Alliance, an exclusive club of 26 major global airlines, which would enable seamless travel for the airline’s passengers to over 1,300 destinations and may increase its revenues by five per cent.
At its Chief Executive Board meeting in London on Monday, the CEOs of the alliance network unanimously approved the membership of Air India, clearing the way for the national carrier to become the first Indian airline to join a global grouping.
Teams of Air India, Star Alliance and its member carriers would complete the final works to ensure the Indian airline can offer all customer benefits from July 11, when it finally joins the grouping formally, an alliance spokesperson said.
“We are happy to note that Air India has become part of the Star Alliance. This is one of the biggest alliances in the world,” Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju told reporters on Tuesday.
Asked whether the airline’s privatisation was discussed at a meeting he had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Raju said Air India formed “a substantive part of our discussion. All issues relating to it was discussed. No decision has been taken and I would not like to stir the hornet’s nest”.
Air India’s revenues may increase by 4-5 per cent by joining the alliance, he said, adding “it is a new beginning for Air India and we wish they fly higher than they have already flown”.
The move would help passengers to access the alliance’s global network of over 21,980 daily flights to 1,328 airports in 195 countries. Star Alliance members jointly own 4,338 aircraft and fly over 640 million passengers a year.
Star Alliance members include major airlines like US carrier United, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Air China, Air Canada, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Thai Airways and Turkish Airlines.
On its part, Air India would add over 400 daily flights and 35 new destinations in India to the alliance network.
The biggest growth would come from India which is currently being served by 13 Star Alliance members flying to 10 destinations and holding a 13 per cent market share.
Commenting on the decision, Star Alliance COO Jeffrey Goh said, “We restarted the re-integration with Air India in December last year and just half a year later we are ready to confirm the official joining date” of July 11.
Welcoming Air India into the fold, he said, “We look forward to welcoming Air India passengers to our global network and offering them our Alliance benefits. At the same time we are pleased to be providing our existing customers improved access to a region which includes the world’s fifth largest domestic aviation market.”
When asked whether Star Alliance was open to more Indian carriers like Jet Airways joining it, Goh said though it was open to such possibilities, but the priority now was to ensure complete integration for Air India.
The membership would result in several benefits for the airline’s passengers, including a hike in its share on the India-US route by about 20 per cent from about 13 per cent now within the first year itself.
The India-US route being a key market for Air India, the membership would mean that its passengers travelling to the US would have easier access to many more cities as they would be able to seamlessly travel on Star Alliance member airlines, like United, to America.
Reciprocal frequent flyer benefits between Air India’s Flying Returns programme and those of the alliance partners would also become effective on July 11, providing customers with more options in earning and redeeming miles and upgrades.
Besides granting access to over 1,000 lounges across the global network, they would also benefit from check-in at specially designated counters, have increased baggage allowance and receive priority boarding and baggage delivery.