Air India joins Star Alliance

By David Flynn, July 11 2014
Air India joins Star Alliance

Air India is officially a member of the Star Alliance, taking its seat at the table alongside 26 other global airlines including Singapore Airlines, United, Thai and Air New Zealand.

India's Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju described the move as "a new beginning for Air India" and one which could help the ailing national carrier return to profitability by increased alliance-based bookings.

Shared frequent flyer benefits between Air India’s Flying Returns scheme and the rewards programs of existing Star Alliance member airlines are now available, including reciprocal 'earning and burning' of points plus lounge access and other perks.

Flying Returns members at the Maharajah Club or Golden Edge Club tiers now have Star Alliance Gold status, giving them access to more than 1,000 lounges across the global network.

Other creature comforts such as access to priority check-in counters, an increased baggage allowance and priority boarding and baggage delivery also apply across all Star Alliance member airlines.

In return, Star Alliance Gold members of other frequent flyer programs now enjoy those same privileges when flying with Air India.

Flights with Air India can be booked in conjunction with a round-the-world Star Alliance journey, with selected routes now also part of Circle Pacific fares.

Second time's the charm

This marks Air India's second attempt at joining the Star Alliance group as the airline coalition scrambled for a large piece of the growing Indian air travel market.

“We have said for many years that we needed a strong home carrier in the Indian market and by welcoming Air India to our Star Alliance family, we have achieved this goal,” said Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab.

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 application 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 strong management 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 had only a 13% share of the country's total international traffic – now boosted to 30% with Air India – with rivals Oneworld and SkyTeam reportedly 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's domestic 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.

Additional reporting by Chris Chamberlin.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 542

Way to go, Air India! Star has a new airline, and Air India has a new alliance. Congratulations to Nandan and his team and it's a win-win situation (Star and Air India both have benefits).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 784

They haven't joined until they've joined. 

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 542

Okay then, but it's still good news. Way to go!

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1251

I have not heard good things about Air India... Star* can have them, but I'd be annoyed if in the unlikely event I got moved from a Singapore flight to an Air India flight. Big difference in standards.

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 86

Hutch, think of the advantages. 7 hours of non stop bollywood movies!

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1251

Lol, so true... I need to broaden my thinking!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 166

Air India has the cheapest fares in business class between London and Australia at the moment, and there are good reasons for that.   Transit in India is a nightmare and from accounts I have heard, Air India is abysmal in ground service or when things go wrong.  I bumped into a contingent of passengers at Melbourne Airport who were stranded because of delays with Air India.

It's all very well *A wanting a major airline in the Indian market, but if you compare with China, when Air China joined *A it was head and shoulders above where Air India is today. 

I'd be astonished if Air India aligns to the 75 "core values" in time.  Strategically this may make sense in the longer term, but for now it devalues the alliance.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1242

The state of their B787 aircraft is also a sorry sight.  There are pictures a passenger took floating around that show seat numbers on the plane written down onto masking tape and then stuck to the overhead bins.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Apr 2013

Total posts 57

Not a great fan of AI, but I transited through IGI in Delhi a few months ago and was pleasantly surprised. The new airport looks great and I got through immigration, picked up my bags and re-checked into a domestic flight, cleared security all within 30min. 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

20 Dec 2013

Total posts 31

I flew SIN - DEL - CDG - DEL - SIN in business class last July. Delhi to Paris on the Dreamliner. Outstanding in all ways. A319s between SIN and DEL were nowhere in the same class. Cost? A$1400 return so I was not complaining. I am a member of Mileage Plus so jumping on the Star Alloanve will be good for me, especially as I have a daughter I will be visiting in northern India for the next two years.

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