Air India: will it join the Star Alliance and should it join?

So it’s been the longest membership in the making for the Star Alliance perhaps and it might turn out to be an effort in vain after all. Star Alliance invited Air India (AI) to join the alliance in 2007, in an effort to penetrate the Indian market which was starting to make its mark in the global aviation industry just about then.

The current AI used to operate as two carriers then, where Air India (AI) used to serve the international routes and Indian Airlines (IC) used to serve the domestic market. The whole process of merging the airlines, including the IT systems only completed in April 2011 and then the airline had already missed the deadline of joining in 2010. Even as on date, the AI ticketing systems seem to be hosted on the servers of SITA, the aviation IT company which finally managed to bring the IT systems migration to a closure.

Of late, there has been a lot of discussion on FlyerTalk about AI making it to the alliance or not. See here for the second part of a long discussion on this topic.

The happenings over the past few weeks have had everyone concerned. The airline is financially strapped, bad enough to not pay it’s employees salaries, but the government won’t swallow its pride and privatize it.Have a look at this story. Instead more of my money (as a taxpayer) goes into this airline which I don’t fly till I absolutely have to! Not just that, on the other hand, the airline is planning to almost double its fleet now and induct new 787s in the fleet. Where is the money I say?

The safety standards are of course, questioned all the time with the pilots using it as a negotiation tactic with the airline management now. They wrote a letter to the Star Alliance management bringing to light the situation on the ground. And it seems like the members of the *A did take note of the situation. Because some of them are right now making noises about the safety concerns.

The frequent flier program is in shambles also. I stopped traveling with them a long while back but it seems they still have not fixed the gaping holes in their program. There are no fixed levels for attaining or retaining elite benefits, and neither are there any special benefits enlisted to go elite. A peek at the terms and conditions states that it’s subjective (read as, ‘at their discretion’). So, I wonder what will happen when a Star Alliance Gold member turns up at the check-in counter. Does he get an express queue, a lounge voucher, or any such thing? We don’t know.

Time is running out fast, and it looks like Air India is sitting it’s in cocoon thinking it will barge into this club of airlines without making all the effort. *A is not exactly an epitome of slick! Fly Air China and you’ll know what I am talking of. Tardy experiences of that one. So I am looking forward to the 31st of July to see how things pan out.

On the other hand, the earlier this episode gets over the better it is for frequent fliers. The grapevine is abuzz that Star Alliance will court a second member in India, and the name doing the rounds is that of Jet Airways. Jet Airways clearly is the gold standard in Indian aviation, and too bad it seems to be leaning towards joining the Skyteam alliance just now. That puts it in some elite company like Delta (pun intended!). However I hope it moves over to *A 😉

The other name doing the rounds is Indigo (6E). Being a LCC, I am wondering how this will play out since they fly point to point services and the alliance concept depends on airlines feeding passengers into each others at connecting flights.

At this point, all I wish for is a closure to the curious case of Air India and the StarAlliance. The doors are closed and time to take off for me now!

About Ajay Awtaney

Ajay is a financial services pro, working to bring order to the chaos of the financial industry on an everyday basis! Beyond that, he dons the hat of India's favourite frequent traveller, trying to help people elevate their travel experience via tips and tricks they never knew before, or introduce them to the world of miles and points. Armed with an MBA from MDI Gurgaon and graduate degree in computer science from the University of Delhi, Ajay brings a systematic and objective approach on the table for his audience in dissecting travel and loyalty programs in India and around the world, and how to benefit from them. Ajay has been quoted in various reputed traditional and online media including The Hindustan Times, Inside Flyer, Bloomberg, DNA India, Conde Nast Traveller, The Telegraph, Mumbai Mirror, Mint, MoneyLife and The USA Today.

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  1. I am a * gold & skyteam platinum, when I visit India & have to travel within India or from India to abroad I prefer AI(over jet * kingfisher) having traveled almost all airlines. The reason being all airlines in India so far have the same standards on security & safety. Taking in consideration the financial situation all the 3 (AI , jet & Kingfisher) are posting losses. Infact jet is very late with its payments to Brussels airport. Both jet & Kingfisher are borrowing additional money from banks & fin institutions to survive. Talking about corruption its rampant in india, jet has had cases in london & mallaya is no saint. I wouldn’t be surprised if mallaya & goyal were bribing the aviation ministry to finish off AI. Atleast AI being state owned will never face bankruptcy . AI’s current state is because of stupid policies by indira gandhi & congress who are very corrupt !!

    • @ Jag, I have not analysed the finances of all the airlines yet, but what I do know is that AI is widely in the red as compared to KFA and Jet. AI is such a big hole in the taxpayers pocket that it should go bankrupt and my taxpayer money should not be spent on running that airline. jet is professional in the air and has its head above the water.

  2. Seeing Jet Airways name in your article was really comforting. Jet is definitely one of the better options to fly into India. I sincerely hope it joins *A. That’s where I am betting my points on! 😉

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