Air India Finally Prepared to Join Star Alliance

Air India was invited to join Star Alliance in late 2007, and all sorts of problems with the carrier have continually pushed off the joining date.

Apparently, however, now that Air India and Indian Airlines are operating jointly under the Air India code, they’ve finally met the minimum joining requirements.

Last May Air India’s entry was put off – yet again – “until March 2011.” That deadline unsurprisingly passed.

It sounds as though their joining may finally be imminent, which is all well and good though I’m not especially excited about the prospect of reciprocal earn and burn with them (though more options are certainly better than fewer). I am somewhat non-plussed because it suggests that Jet Airways may be less likely to become a Star Alliance member as a result. Though with Kingfisher tying in with oenworld, they could well find a home in Skyteam. Jet is fairly stingy with premium cabin long-haul award space, at least for more than one passenger at a time, so that may well be fitting..

Nonetheless, no joining date for Air India has yet been announced.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] First up was their announcement that they’re finally ready to join Star Alliance. The initial invitation to join the alliance was extended in 2007, a long, long time in the world of airline alliances. Alas, the company struggled with IT issues and other integration problems and has seen their proposed join date postponed time and again. But as of May 2011 they believe they’ve finally got all the pieces in place to make that the leap into the alliance. […]

Comments

  1. Well there is still hope that it won’t happen. After all, this is Air India we are talking about.

  2. And of course no post referring to alliances is complete on this blog without an unnecessary cheap shot against Skyteam.

  3. SkyTeam deserves every shot that Gary fires at them.

    Delta and SkyTeam — two peas in a pod.

  4. @AS Skyteam’s award availability is unquestionably less good for multiple passengers in premium cabins than in either of the other two alliances.

  5. This is worthless for long haul redemptions, but it’ll be nice to have some connectivity in the domestic indian market.

  6. @Gary – I challenge that statement.

    Star Alliance availability for late June from IAD on non-stop/1-stop itineraries to the biggest cities in Western Europe in Business Class pales compared to Skyteam availability. This isn’t an isolated scenario. Same holds true for SFO, ORD, and other Star hubs.

    It’s difficult to use Star Alliance miles for business class out of IAD unless you want to use miles on the old United 777 configuration or take 2+ stops.

    But my original point remains true. You take unnecessary cheap shots at Skyteam whenever talking alliances. It would be good for you to be more objective and more restrained.

  7. @AS It’s not a cheap shot when it’s accurate, I’d argue I am being quite objective, my statements are based on likely more award searches made than anyone else.

    You are taking a single example, “late June from IAD on non-stop/1-stop itineraries to the biggest cities in Western Europe in Business Class” and it’s a special case because a week into June Air France throws an A380 on the Dulles – Paris route [which seems crazy from a business perspective] and there are upwards of 9 business class award seats available on that route many days. That is absolutely not generalizable, though I would still counter that Lufthansa award availability ex-IAD to Frankfurt and Munich is pretty good, including once again in first class despite their only offering 8 seats instead of 16 now on the 747.

    Furthermore, if you think that Skyteam is better from SFO, what routes are you looking at? Certainly not SFO-Paris. Now, any San Francisco non-stop transatlantic on any carrier is tough to get (let’s compare transpacific though!) but —

    1) let’s compare availabiltiy to oneworld, I can get you transatlantic on British Airways [if you’re willing to pay a fuel surcharge, which Air France charges its Flying Blue members of course as well] almost any day of the week if you’re willing to connect, plus Cathay Pacific’s award availability ex-SFO is excellent

    2) With Star you can connect to any number of transatlantic gateways to pick up Lufthansa

    3) You also mention Chicago, Chicago -Dusseldorf availability is excellent and could always hop Chicago – Detroit to pick up Detroit – Frankfurt.

    The ONLY times that Skyteam has an advantage is
    (1) Australia — and then it’s not Skyteam, but rather Delta’s partnership with V Australia
    (2) French Polynesia — because Air France has non-daily flights to Papeete
    (3) Specific routes, like Dulles – Paris (Air France) and Houston – Amsterdam (KLM operated by Privatair)

    Instead of a specific case, how about a more general challenge? Neutral party selects route non-hub to hub, and we see which alliance has the better availability for a given set of dates? 🙂

  8. @Gary –

    It would be pretty stupid of me to take up a general challenge against someone who books awards on a semi-professional basis. Sorry but nice try. 🙂

    Yes IAD-Europe nonstop/1-stop is one example. But most people have limited vacation time, and Western Europe is not an unusual request. Making it 2+ stops and losing 3-6 more hours each way is a strong negative. Adds an extra half day on the outbound, harsher travel day on the return.

    Yes AF is adding A380 to the IAD-CDG route. But you can’t just dismiss that. AF *are* adding capacity to this and other routes and opening award seats. The same way they did for JFK, SFO, and YUL too. Award availability on AF has improved with A380. For what its worth, SFO-CDG had seats available virtually every day for a while a few weeks ago. My view is that it is a competitive differentiator for AF (and thus Skyteam).

    Your point on LH availability (and anecdotally for UA also in my experience) is that availability is good in First Class. In my experience, that may be true but not in Business Class. Unfortunately that’s a ~30% mileage premium for a 7-hour flight (and, much higher premium if using BMI miles). I don’t think it’s worth it; for such a short flight I can rationalize the premium from Y to C but struggle to rationalize it for C to F.

    On #2 and #3 your idea is to hop to an LH gateway. That works on a 1-stop basis to FRA, MUC, DUS. Otherwise you’re back to 2+ stops which again is less attractive. I’ll do it when I have lots of time and the trip is worth it (eg. xxx-YYZ-HKG-xxx on CX) but try to avoid it for 7h to Europe.

    On #1 – Oneworld – BA availability is a significant positive development for transatlantic availability. Better for everybody than it was a year ago. And your points on where Skyteam is better (ie. PPT etc) are well taken also.

    However, given the relative scale of the alliances and the number of airlines flying transatlantic, I would expect Star to clearly dominate traffic and award availability.

    LH Group (incl.LX/SN/OS)+UA+CO+AC has a huge presence and network flexibility advantage for 1-stop traffic on both ends compared to either Skyteam or Oneworld. Skyteam has only AMS,CDG,MXP(?!) in Europe and Oneworld has only LHR,MAD compared to FRA,MUC,ZRH,BRU,VIE. That’s setting aside the other members of Star too. It’s more balanced in the Eastern US (JFK,ATL,DTW,CVG(?) for ST; JFK,MIA,ORD,BOS(?) for OW; EWR,IAD,ORD,CLE(?) for *A). I discounted hubs in ex-Eastern Europe due to longer travel time/possible backtracking.

    However I don’t believe that Star’s network flexibility translates into more generosity than Skyteam (or Oneworld) for transatlantic in *Business Class* no matter how you slice it. Do you still disagree?

  9. Very much disagree, and AF ex-SFO availability is quite awful actually, regardless of what it may have been for a brief span.

    No one has the sort of availabiltiy that BA does, of course, but LH has excellent business class availability on many routes, many more routes than AF does (ATL, DTW, JFK, BOS, and even IAD once you get out of the nearest term).

    Look, I’m glad you’re happy with Skyteam, that’s great, but as someone who books awards day in and day out I will take anything other than miles in a Skyteam program for almost any sort of award. My opinion of Skyteam is based on redeeming over 100 million miles for international premium class travel. Their miles are just harder to use than miles in a oneworld or Star program.

  10. @Gary – you misunderstand me. Skyteam has availability problems too. But my experience says Star Alliance isn’t nearly as generous or convenient for business class transatlantic as you give them credit for.

    I’ve personally found Skyteam much easier to redeem than either competing alliance over the years – to the extreme. I don’t have anywhere near your numbers but I have found business class on Skyteam to almost always be 1-stop and on Star Alliance almost always to require 2-stop. Which in practice translates to me choosing and using probably 4-5x as many Skyteam awards transatlantic vs. Star Alliance over the years and almost never on Oneworld (and generally not for a lack of miles to burn).

    I’m left guessing your perceptions of relative alliance availability are based on including either 2-stop itineraries or F redemptions in the mix, neither of which are appealing to me for transatlantic.

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