New Delhi: The top brass of Star Alliance will meet in London on Monday to decide on Air India's induction into the 26-member global airlines' grouping which could give the national carrier's passengers the facility of seamless travel to over 1,200 destinations.
If the membership is granted, it would end Air India's seven-year-long wait to access the alliance's global network of over 18,000 daily flights to 1,269 airports in 193 countries.
The member airlines of Star Alliance together own a total of 4,338 aircraft and fly over 640 million passengers a year, many of whom can also earn and burn frequent flyer miles on the entire alliance network.
At its meeting in London on Monday, the Star Alliance Chief Executive Board (CEB) could give an endorsement vote to induct Air India into the fold, paving the way for the integration of all its systems, including ticket booking and flight scheduling, into the global network.
The membership is expected to result in several benefits for the airline and its passengers, including a hike in Air India's share on the India-US route by about 20 per cent from about 13 per cent now within the first year itself.
The India-US route being a key market for Air India, the membership would mean that its passengers travelling to the US would have easier access to many more cities there as they would be able to seamlessly travel on other Star Alliance member airlines flights going to America.
Alliance chief executive Mark Schwab had earlier said that the grouping had long held that India was such an important aviation market that it should be fully represented.
Observing that the Indian market was now showing signs of stabilisation, he had said, “Today we see an Air India which has successfully completed its merger with Indian Airlines and is building up a new fleet that forms the basis for a much improved level of service.”
Air India was originally accepted as a future member of Star Alliance in December, 2007, but the integration process was suspended in July, 2011, to allow the national carrier to focus on completing its merger with Indian Airlines before fully integrating it into the alliance network.
Over the past several months, the airline has been working to meet the minimum requirements for joining the grouping, with sources saying that most of these have been completed already as a large number of Star Alliance officials worked with their Air India counterparts here.
A formal induction ceremony would be held here sometime in July and Air India is to have one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplanes and an Airbus A-320 aircraft - signifying its international and domestic operations, painted with the Star Alliance logo and livery for the occasion.
The CEB will also formally launch their hub at the new Terminal 2 of Heathrow airport, called the Queen's Terminal. The terminal started functioning from June 2 with Star Alliance member, US carrier United, being the first to move in to the new facility.
Besides United, it would become the hub of operations of 26 member airlines like Singapore Airlines, Air China, Air Canada, Swiss, Lufthansa and Turkish, who are expected to move in to the new terminal over the next six months.