Air India is set to formally join the Star Alliance family in July.
Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab confirmed the timeline on a visit to India this week to lay the groundwork for Air India’s admission into the group, saying that “The precise date is yet to be decided but it will be in July.”
“There are also a few commercial agreements that need to be signed with other member airlines relating to codeshares, but Air India is already in the advanced stages of those discussions,” Schwab added.
The official ‘endorsement vote’ from the CEOs of Star Alliance’s 26 other member airline is expected to take place at an alliance membership gathering in London on June 23.
Second time’s the charm
This will be Air India’s second chance to join the Star Alliance group as the airline coalition scrambles for a large piece of the growing Indian air travel market.
The Indian airline first signed on to Star Alliance in December 2007 but the process ground to a halt after almost four years, with the airline’s
for membership suspended in July 2011.
Asked what has changed three years down the track, Schwab said today’s airline is “a different Air India.”
“They have been through a tough merger but they have a strongmanagement team and they have improved their infrastructure and fleet.”
Star eyes more Indian travellers
Nearly 37 million international passengers travel to and from India each year, with a third of those passengers flying on Air India and Jet Airways, Air India’s local competitor which late last year sold a 24% stake to Etihad.
17% of the traffic belongs to Gulf carriers including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Air Arabia.
Star Alliance is reported to have only a 13% share of the country’s total international traffic, with rivals OneWorld and SkyTeam holding 8% each.
The remainder belongs to international airlines which are not affiliated with any of the three alliance families.
Finding an Indian partner has been troublesome for alliances.
Oneworld had pinned its hopes on high-flyer Kingfisher, which as recently as December 2011 enjoyed the the second largest share in India’sdomestic air travel market, but suspended the airline’s membership application in early 2012 as the airline’s growing losses exceeded US$1 billion.
Following a series of shut-downs, strikes and employee lock-outs, Kingfisher’s aviation licence was withdrawn in October 12 and its international flying rights and domestic slots scrapped by Indian aviation authorities in February 2013.
Source : Australian Business Traveller