The Maharajah and his men are going places, and you can also hitch a ride. How? Air India is getting into the big buddies club - Star Alliance - which already has Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Austrian, United, US Airways, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, bmi, LOT, Scandinavian Airlines, Spanair, Thai Airways and Varig as members.
Joining the alliance would give AI access to over 15,000 connecting flights a day run by other carriers to 840 destinations in 150 countries. It would also help AI increase its load factor by 5-6 per cent. See yourself going places?
AI is joining the alliance by this month end as a part of its global expansion plans. And it is not easy business.
To become a member, airlines must meet a range of standards set by the alliance. Once they become members airlines are regularly audited to ensure they meet the requirements. This would make AI the first Indian carrier to join a global alliance. It is a not just a recognition of the booming Indian air travel market but also of the improved service
standards of the Indian carrier.
Connectivity is of course a major benefit, as it ensures member airlines a greater number of passengers off their partner airlines than if they were not in the alliance.
Cost savings are also an important incentive for the airlines. At airports, having Star carriers bundled together under one roof or terminal, passengers get the added benefits of ease of transit or check-in, access to Star lounges and priority baggage clearance.
Another major benefit is that members of frequent flyer programmes on all Star carriers can earn and redeem miles/points on any Star airline across the globe. Your flight schedules are also coordinated to permit almost seamless travel, which may include different carriers within the alliance, on a single ticket.That said, you may have to wait a while as it usually takes around a year between an airline being accepted as a member and them actually joining. In the meantime they work with the Star Alliance team to meet the minimum requirements. For Air India, this is the way to go.