Ben Mutzabaugh reports that Air India is again on track to join the Star Alliance.
Air India had been invited to become a member of Star at the end of 2007 (rumored as far back as 2006), in a process that generally takes 18 to 24 months.
But in July 2011, however, Star gave up on the project and walked away. Air India was too much of a basket case, taking too long to meet entrance standards, including in IT (at the time they hadn’t managed to successfully integrate with Indian Airlines, which they had acquired).
Star wanted to take a stab at having Jet Airways join, but the Indian government balked. Etihad has since taken an equity stake. (Kingfisher was supposed to become a member of oneworld before it imploded.)
Given the work that was done with previous attempts to integrate with Star, there is some hope that things could go faster this time.
India is a huge up and coming aviation market. There’s not yet an Indian carrier that’s a part of an international alliance (the Jet Airways equity deal with Etihad notwithstanding). So there’s a clear desire on the part of an alliance to get a foothold into the country.
Air India has daily service New York JFK – Delhi and Newark – Mumbai. It’s not at all obvious to me how the split operations in New York can make sense, and joining Star would seem to support increased Newark service.
They also service Chicago – Delhi daily. They also operate three-class aircraft, and while their reputation is far from stellar that could make them a highly desirable award redemption partner… not to mention the ability to include intra-Indian flights into awards, thus traveling beyond major gateway cities on a single ticket.
Connecting in India is far from seamless, however, as international and domestic terminals aren’t generally connected. Visas are also cumbersome to obtain (always request one for as long as possible, to avoid the headache of having to re-apply) although there are murmerings of attempts to make the process easier.
Now if only United MileagePlus awards on partners weren’t getting so darned expensive.
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