New Delhi: Air India’s bid to join Star Alliance has received a major setback with the global airlines’ group “suspending” the national carrier’s integration into its network prompting the government to term the move as “unexpected and disappointing”.
A decision to suspend Air India’s integration with the alliance was “jointly” taken by 27 member airlines as the national carrier “has not met the minimum joining conditions that were contractually agreed in December 2007”.
Joining the alliance would have enabled the ailing carrier to add depth to its route network in the international sector by providing passengers last mile connectivity in foreign countries, thereby making considerable savings.
Air India was given a deadline of 31 July to meet all standards and criteria to join the Star Alliance network.
A Star Alliance statement said, “The decision to suspend has received subsequent confirmation by the Star Alliance chief executive board,” which met on Sunday.
“With the collective decision to put the integration efforts on hold today, we aim to contribute to AI’s flexibility to concentrate on its ongoing strategic reorientation.
“In this process our member carriers will continue to provide assistance to Air India wherever required,” Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht was quoted as saying.
Reacting to the decision, official sources said it was “unexpected and disappointing” and added that the civil aviation ministry would soon write to Star Alliance to reconsider their decision.
Expressing regret, they said, “Only last week, a Star Alliance Project Manager had given in writing that all the 87 criteria had been met by Air India”.
Air India’s bid to join the alliance was suspended weeks after a meeting took place here between the Star Alliance CEO, the civil aviation ministry and Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav. An airline cannot join the alliance even if a single full-fledged member airline casts a negative vote.
Asked whether any crucial conditions had not been met by Air India, the official sources said, “All crucial minimum joining conditions (MJCs), including the Star Alliance Upgrade Award (SAUA), have been implemented”.
Under SAUA, a passenger can get free upgrades on any member airline if he or she has mileage points from another member carrier.
“We would like to continue discussions with Star Alliance as joining a global airlines’ grouping is crucial for Air India. Lot of effort and resources have been put in the integration process and we want to see that reaching the logical conclusion,” they said.
Star Alliance has also invited premier private carrier Jet Airways to join the grouping, along with Air India.
As part of a crucial requirement, Air India has already integrated its ticketing code in February to ‘AI’. The earlier ticketing codes were ‘AI’ and ‘IC’ which was a remnant of the pre-merger scenario where Indian Airlines and Air India operated separately.
It also fulfilled another requirement of having the same code for domestic and international travel to ensure seamless travel.