National carrier Air India is likely to be inducted into one of the largest interline networks of the world by July, a senior airline official said.
"In June, the board of the Star Alliance will call on a vote to either induct Air India or not. If the vote is in our favour, then Air India will be formally inducted from July," Air India's chairman Rohit Nandan told IANS on the sidelines of a formal event hosting the inter-airline accord's chief executive Mark F.Schwab here late Wednesday night. According to Rohit Nandan, most of the the minimum joining requirements (MJRs) have been completed and the rest, which is mainly related to information technology (IT) aspect, is expected to be finished by mid-May.
"Joining the Alliance will bring in immediate benefits of frequent fliers programmes, lounge access the world over and single ticket travel across airlines and other such facilities for our passengers and same for the Star Alliance passengers travelling on Air India," Nandan said. Star Aloliance chief executive Schwab said he was confident that Star's executive board members will take a favourable decision on Air India's induction.
The meeting is expected to be held in London June 22-23. "I am hopeful of an endorsement of Air India. This is will happen when we meet in June with all other alliance member airlines," Schwab said. Schwab added that this was the right time for selection of Air India as the passenger carrier's performance on various parameters has improved and the Alliance itself has conducted safety and passenger satisfaction reviews of the airline.
"We take a quarter of a million passenger reviews every year and we have also conducted a safety review of Air India. We see a very different airline from what it was, there has been improvement on all counts, there is service and infrastructure improvements. So, this is the right time for the induction," Schwab said. The arrangement is the largest among the three global interline unions with a total airline membership of 26 with 18,043 daily departures to 1,269 airports in 193 countries.
Air India has wanted to join Star Alliance ever since it was invited in 2007 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. Formed in 1997, Star Alliance is a consortium of 26 airlines, including Lufthansa, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Swiss, among other major airlines of the world.
Currently, Air India operates flights to 59 domestic destinations and has a network of 31 international routes with a fleet of 111, which includes Airbus A-319, A-320, A-321, A-330, Boeing 737, B-777, B-747 and B-787 Dreamliners besides ATR-42 and CRJ aircraft.