Air India’s entry into Star Alliance, the prestigious global airline group, is being torpedoed by competing airlines who want a larger slice of the Indian market as a quid pro quo, according to sources familiar with the development.
Star Alliance is a consortium of 28 airlines including Lufthansa, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Swiss and each member airline has a veto in deciding on new members.
It has a fleet of over 4,000 aircraft across 181 countries and offers benefits such as seamless transfers to AI passengers across the world, more frequent flyer mileage points, code sharing and access to lounge facilities worldwide.
According to multiple sources, some member airlines of the Alliance have already expressed their reservations against AI and if its proposal is not all together scuttled, AI’s joining will certainly be delayed. The central executive of Star Alliance is slated to meet on Sunday to take a final call on AI but unconfirmed reports said 10 of the 28 airlines have already indicated their opposition to AI.
On its part, India has become cautious in granting bilateral rights to foreign airlines in the last few years.
A senior official in the ministry of civil aviation said AI has been pursuing some airlines to change their mind and vote in its support, pointing out that some foreign carriers who want to grow their Indian business are standing in the way of AI. Air India officials acknowledged that the joining deadline — which is July 31 — has been pushed back by a few weeks.
The ministry official quoted above said that in case Star Alliance does not work out, AI could look towards working with another global alliance, SkyTeam, which is sending a delegation to India next week to explore business opportunities here.
“We have never stopped anyone from joining a global alliance. We allowed Kingfisher to join OneWorld.... if AI is not allowed to join Star Allince no other private Indian carrier will stand a chance of joining it either,” he said.
He was perhaps referring to Jet Airways, which has been keen to join Star Alliance for years now.