When I worked for Star Alliance in 2011, the politics surrounding Air India’s failed bid to join the Alliance were fascinating. I am bound from disclosing the nitty gritty details, but the situation opened my eyes to how much maneuvering and backstabbing goes on in the airline industry. Now Air India is again making a concerted push to join Star Alliance and I think I can get away with saying, buyer be warned.
But for all the pitfalls of doing business with a flailing state-run carrier, I will be quite happy if Air India is successful this time around in joining Star–and by all indications it appears this is a done deal. Star Alliance remains gold-medal winner of the three alliances, but oneworld is catching up and will move even closer with the addition of US Airways. Already it has picked off bmi (acquisition by British Airways) and (soon) TAM from Star Alliance. Even with Avianca/TACA and Copa maintaining a healthy operation of flights, Star Alliance has a notable gap in South America.
Star also has a gap in India that this addition to the Alliance will help to fix. Air India’s route network has shrunk substantially—no more flights to Frankfurt from Los Angeles or Chicago among the many longhauls axed—but it still adds several new destinations and connecting options in South Asia and the surrounding area.
For U.S. travelers, its Delhi – New York JFK / Newark / Chicago routes will be welcome additions to United’s flight from Newark, which offers premium cabin award space oh…never.
Frankly, I do not care if Air India is hemorrhaging cash or maintaining a payroll of twice the people it needs. As long as award space is released and the flights operate, I chalk this up as good news. Air India is NOT a world class carrier, but its new 787 aircraft has great business class seats.
Eveyrthing was ready to go last time around…literally the flip of switch would have synced Air India into Star Alliance…so the leadtime will be much shorter this time around. Air India expects to join Star Alliance in early 2014, though I would give it till next spring.