New Delhi: Air India wants to be a Star Alliance member and has refused to take no for an answer. The Alliance is already in talks with rival Jet Airways to induct the airline into this prestigious global airline grouping but AI is not going to be left behind.
So AI has written to the civil aviation ministry seeking its support in dealing with Star Alliance and eventually becoming a part of it. It has also written a letter to the Alliance itself last week, explaining why its membership should be considered. But will AI succeed? Why should Star Alliance now accept AI’s candidature when last year, it had rejected AI despite the airline having completed all formalities to join the Alliance?
“Air India is still looking to join Star Alliance and we feel that they must take us because our performance is better than ever and better than others……we are ready with all formalities and could join tomorrow. We are not looking at joining any other global airline grouping since Star Alliance suits us best,” Air India chairman and MD Rohit Nandan told Firstpost.
Last year, AI completed all requirements by 31 July to join the Alliance, but the next day, the Alliance issued a press statement saying AI’s entry had been suspended for not meeting minimum joining conditions that were contractually agreed in December 2007. It did not specify where AI had been negligent.
Nandan declined to give further details but airline sources said that Air India has shown improvement on all parameters. AI’s On Time Performance (OTP) has reached 85 percent (perhaps the best ever and among the highest in the industry), its cash losses have come down to Rs 38 crore in the June quarter versus Rs 530 crore in the same quarter last year and it turned in a cash profit for the first time in 60 months (five years) in the month of June at Rs 48 crore.
Besides, it load factors (number of occupied seats versus total seats in an aircraft) has risen to 73 percent.
These sources also pointed out that both, AI and Jet have the same rating as per Skytrax (global airline rating agency) of three stars so why should Jet get preference over AI in joining Star Alliance? In fact, these officials alleged that the Alliance and its members used Air India to gain access to India, obtain bilateral rights and begin further penetration into the Indian market.
“They will use Jet also similarly,” the sources said.
These sources said that AI has written to the Alliance as late as last week, detailing its improved performance and reasons why it should be included in the Alliance. The airline has also pointed out that even during the recent pilot strike—which some say was the immediate cause for the Alliance not considering AI’s case sympathetically—it continued to offer connectivity to all parts of the globe.
“Which airline does not face a strike or some human resource issues? Is that enough reason for Star Alliance to not consider our case?,” the sources said.
Air India was to join Star Alliance last year, but was denied entry when several Alliance members opposed such a move. Unconfirmed reports had suggested then that the Alliance was keen on taking Jet and had pushed the Civil Aviation Ministry for permission to also take Jet in its fold. Jet Airways has now formally applied to the government for permission to join this Alliance, which counts United Air Lines, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Singapore Airlines, SWISS and Air China among its members.
Entry into the alliance, if it happens, would have enabled AI to offer seamless travel to customers, the usage of frequent flier points redeemable with any member airline and connectivity over 193 countries. Star Alliance is the largest such airline grouping in the world.