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Air India’s entry into the Star Alliance is a watershed, but the ongoing FAA downgrading of India’s air safety rating looms as a cloud over the event.
National carrier Air India will become the first Indian airline admitted to a global airline alliance on July 11 when it is slated to officially join the Star Alliance.
The decision to admit Air India into the Star Alliance came by unanimous concensus of the CEOs of existing member airlines during its chief executive board (CEB) meeting held in London June 23.
According to the official statement from the Star Alliance:
“Air India will add a total of 400 daily flights and 35 new destinations in India to the Star Alliance network. A its home market which is currently being served by 13 Star Alliance members flying to 10 destinations and holding a 13% market share.
“Bringing Air India into the equation not only adds more airports but also increases the Alliances market share in India to 30%. Globally, passengers will further benefit from a wider choice on routes connecting North America, Europe, Asia and Australia via the Indian Subcontinent. In total the Star Alliance network will grow to 27 member airlines, offering more than 18,500 daily flights serving 1,316 destinations in 192 countries.”
On January 31, after determining that India’s Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) had failed to meet established International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, the FAA downgraded India’s safety rating from a Category 1 to a Category 2, which allows airlines in India to maintain existing routes to the U.S., but restricts expansion.
There is ongoing collaboration between the FAA and the DGCA to restore India’s Category 1 status, but, for the time being, this strategic alliance allows Air India to extend the routes available to its customers, via its Star Alliance partners.
Rohit Nandan, Air India chairman and managing director, says of joining the Alliance: “Air India worked hard to meet the exacting expectations prior to joining and today, we are elated to be inducted into the Star Alliance family.”
Jeffrey Goh, COO of the Star Alliance adds: “We restarted the re-integration with Air India in December last year and just half a year later we are ready to confirm the official joining date. We look forward to welcoming Air India passengers to our global network and offering them our Alliance benefits. At the same time we are pleased to be providing our existing customers improved access to a region which includes the world’s fifth largest domestic aviation market.”
The Star Alliance indicates that reciprocal frequent flyer benefits between Air India’s Flying Returns program and those of the existing member carriers will also become effective on July 11, 2014, giving customers more options to earn and redeem, upgrade and obtain Star Alliance Gold status.