Skift Take

Is the Star Alliance's future just about continuing with the cumbersome process of adding new airline members here or there, or does it have to formulate new strategies to confront the growth of Emirates and Etihad, for example, which aren't as enamored with traditional tie-ups?

Keeping loyal customers with benefits and expanding networks are the focus of the 28 member airlines, including Thai Airways International, of Star Alliance next year to fend off fiercer competition.

Chiefs of the global network recently met in Vienna, Austria to brainstorm the strategic development of the alliance.

Representing one-third of the global aviation industry, the network offers more than 21,900 daily flights to 1,328 airports in 195 countries.

Calin Rovinescu, CEO of Air Canada and executive chairman of Star Alliance, said the chief executives reaffirmed that the universal offering of Star Alliance Gold status benefits across the network was a major attraction for customers.

“Star Alliance’s aim is to deliver our promises for our customers consistently on every trip in any part of the world,” he said.

“We continue to review the steps that have been taken to ensure this promise is carried through in every location Star Alliance serves, and will continue to make this our focus going forward.”

Another central topic was the alliance’s membership strategy, which focuses on having a strong global network that benefits both customers and airlines.

The executive board agreed unanimously to extend Avianca’s Star Alliance membership to include Avianca Brazil and to recommence the integration process with Air India, said Mark Schwab, CEO of Star Alliance.

“This will allow us to maintain our presence in Brazil following the departure of TAM Airlines and to build a presence in one of the most important aviation markets where we do still not have a member carrier — the Indian subcontinent.”

Integration of Air India was suspended in 2011 to give the airline more time to focus on the internal challenges caused by its merger with Indian Airlines. In the two years since then it has worked through these issues and also invested heavily in its fleet, laying the groundwork for a major improvement in its services to customers.

Admission of Avianca Brazil will go some way towards reinforcing the Star Alliance network in Brazil following TAM’s departure in the first half of next year, and complement the alliance’s already strong position in Latin America through its members Avianca and Copa Airlines.

The board reaffirmed that the alliance model was an important component in today’s competitive environment and noted that Star Alliance is not only still the largest of the three airline alliances but also has the most robust experience in growing its membership smoothly.

“Many of today’s global standards in aviation have been created by alliance experts, for instances in safety, through check-in or barcode technology,” said Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz. “Alliances are good for the industry and will remain relevant in the future.”

Looking at the global development of aviation, Franz joined other European airline colleagues in repeating the wake-up call to the continent’s political decision makers.

“We urge them to come to grips with creating a single European sky. We urge them to understand that continued investment in sufficient infrastructure on the ground and in the air is required to keep up with the global industry development,” he said.

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Tags: air india, avianca, star alliance

Photo Credit: Air India is restarting the process of joining the Star Alliance, a long-sought goal. Pictured an Air India Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner takes part in a flying display during the 50th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 14, 2013 file photo. Pascal Rossignol / Reuters