As Air India joins the world’s largest grouping of airlines, the Star Alliance, as its 27th member on July 11, 2014, there will be benefits that will be enjoyed by both the airline and passengers.
The alliance currently has 26 member airlines from all continents, except Antarctica and carried 637.62 million passengers last year.
African member airlines are: EgyptAir MS, Ethiopian Airlines ET, and South African Airways SA,
Asian member airlines are : Air China CA, ANA (All Nippon Airways) NH, Asiana Airlines OZ, EVA Air BR, Shenzhen Airlines ZH, Singapore Airlines SQ, and Thai Airways TG.
European member airlines are: Adria Airways JP, Aegean Airlines A3, Austrian OS, Brussels Airlines SN, Croatia Airlines OU, LOT Polish Airlines LO, Lufthansa LH, Scandinavian Airlines SK, SWISS LX, TAP Portugal TP, and Turkish Airlines TK.
Latin American member airlines are : Avianca AV, and Copa Airlines CM. [Star recently lost TAM of Brazil to its competitor, oneworld, and is weak in the region].
North American member airlines are: Air Canada AC, and United Airlines UA.
The lone Oceania member airline is: Air New Zealand NZ,
A profile of all these airlines is available on the Star website here.
Star alliance frequent fliers
Air India will first and foremost immediately benefit from the existing frequent fliers of Star member airlines. Finally, we can start earning mileage on our domestic India flights too. Assuming other factors like fare, schedule and on-time performance (OTP) being acceptable, mileage is a powerful incentive to choose to fly on Air India.
Those of us who hold the Star Gold elite status (the highest tier), will also get an additional 20kg baggage allowance, access to airport lounges and priority boarding (even when flying economy class), and these are additional incentives to fly Air India.
However, for this to work, Air India will have to be fairly generous in terms of which classes will be allowed to accrue mileage, as well as the percentage of miles accrued. [Note: Normally airlines do not allow accrual or allow only 10% or 25% or 50% for the lower fare classes].
Air India Flying Returns frequent flier members
Members of Air India’s frequent flyer programme (FFP) Flying Returns, will expand their opportunities to earn and spend miles on the other 26 member airlines of the Star Alliance. This will increase their loyalty towards Air India as most fliers prefer to consolidate their miles for better rewards. Again the impact will depend on the pragmatism and generosity of the planners at Air India on how attractive do they make awards. For example, many Star alliance frequent fliers choose to bank their miles with Singapore Airlines since it allows awards on its first class Suites, which other airlines do not.
Medium and long term benefits
Air India’s international network is weak. The Star membership will make it easier for the carrier to enter in to partnerships with other Star member airlines to expand its points of call. However, this is not automatic and bi-lateral agreements will have to be negotiated. Expect Air India’s Star mentor Lufthansa to be one of the first partners. It would behove Air India to leverage their membership and drive partnerships that will
The elephant in the room is India’s downgrade by the US Federal Aviation Administration which makes code-sharing with US Star member United Airlines, impossible right now. An interline agreement though can be signed. India’s civil aviation ministry should stop trying to run Air India, and instead focus their energies on aviation policy, regulation, and put their total efforts to returning India back to Category 1.
Globalisation of the airline will occur. Media reports Air India has planned to shift from the all in one tray to a course based service in its premium classes.
Attitude and service levels at the airline are the “if” factor. This is a chance for Air Indians to show their true abilities on the global stage, but if they do not abandon their sloth, unsympathetic, militant and indisciplined work practices, then a spectacular failure is on the cards.
What are the benefits you feel the Star Alliance membership will bring to Air India? Share you thoughts via a comment.