'Air India may have to wait to join Star Alliance'

'Air India may have to wait to join Star Alliance'

'Air India may have to wait to join Star Alliance'

The formal induction of Air India as a member of Star Alliance, the largest pact among global carriers, is expected to be delayed further as it is yet to integrate its systems, a top official from a founding member of the alliance said.

The remarks by Wolfgang Mayrhuber, chairman and chief executive of Lufthansa, came after a meeting with Arvind Jadhav, Air India's chairman and managing director, to discuss among other issues the progress being made by the Indian carrier to join Star Alliance. "Apart from upgrading its IT technology, there are other issues also which have to be worked out before Air India becomes a full member part of Star Alliance," Mayrhuber told reporters.

Star Alliance, which has 25 carriers as members, has a network that operates more than 19,500 flights every day from as many as 1,071 airports in 171 countries. Air India has been wanting to join Star Alliance ever since it was invited in 2006 as it entails benefits such as improved product offering, better service standards, access to new markets and premium customers and partnership with leading global carriers.

The pact also entails sharing of airport lounges and synchronisation of flight schedules, which will permit seamless travel for a passenger on a single air ticket, even if it requires flying several carriers on a single journey.

For that, apart from an integrated system for its domestic and international operations following the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India, the new entity has to unify the codes of IC and AI still being used by the combined entity. Nevertheless, Lufthansa's Mayrhuber sees tremendous growth in India's commercial aviation industry and looks forward to greater working relations between his carrier and Air India, which has made Frankfurt its hub for operations to Europe and the US.

Frankfurt is also the hub for Lufthansa, with which Air India not only has a code sharing pact. AI also counts Lufthansa as a valuable partner in view of the recommendation it made to help it join Star Alliance as a member.

"India has become a core market for us. We expect sustained long-term growth. The rising demand for overseas connectivity is driven by high growth, encouraging infrastructure development and transformation of many companies here into competitive global players." Mayrhuber also said his airline saw encouraging signs of demand revival on Indian routes.

"The price sensitivity remains. This needs to be managed," he said, adding the airline has 52 weekly flights to seven Indian destinations, the highest for any European carrier in India.