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Air India played host to the first ever Star Alliance Chief Executive Board Meeting (CEB) held in New Delhi. This follows India’s national carrier joining the world’s longest serving and most comprehensive airline alliance in July this year.
Speaking to both local and foreign media in New Delhi, Rohit Nandan, CMD Air India emphasized that for Air India, membership in Star Alliance is a key pillar of the airline’s turnaround strategy, along with the fleet renewal, network optimization and an initiative to improve quality of service.
“Star Alliance is known for its high safety standards, and being part of it means that 26 recognized carriers believe in us,” he said explaining the improved services that the 60 year old national carrier now offers.
Mark Schwab, Star Alliance CEO noted the significant investment in technology that is being made for a more efficient operative cost for clients within the alliance. He said that already members are enjoying a large interchange of miles in a real time exchange. Frequent flyers in one airline can use their miles to travel on another member airlines’ flights.
After nearly half a year in the Alliance, Air India has already seen positive effects from its membership. The airline has seen an increase of 33 percent in the number of passengers transferring between Air India and other Star Alliance member carriers.
Air India sees further opportunities to increase transfer traffic in Delhi and Mumbai and is working with Star Alliance, the member carriers and the airport operators to provide more connecting flights and ease the transfer process at the Subcontinent’s main hubs.
In thanking Rohit Nandan for hosting the CEB meeting, Mark Schwab, Star Alliance CEO, assured him of the Alliance’s support in its endeavor. Schwab reiterated the importance of having Air India in Star Alliance. “India is the world’s fifth largest domestic aviation market and will continue to grow both domestically and internationally. It is therefore essential for Star Alliance to have a strong presence in this market”.
Asked what Air India’s joining the Star Alliance membership could mean to Ethiopian Airlines, CEO Tewolde Gebremariam, who was in New Delhi for the meeting told Capital “it represents additional connectivity for our clients, more destinations and more facilities.” Ethiopian Airlines joined the Star Alliance group in 2011.
Through Air India, Star Alliance customers have access to an additional 40 airports in India as well as more flights across the region. With its hubs in Delhi and Mumbai, Air India adds further flight options on routes to North America, Europe and the Asia/Pacific.
Air India also enhances the global Star Alliance FFP proposal, which now offers customers the possibility of collecting and redeeming miles on a worldwide network of 18,500 daily flights, serving 1,321 destinations in 193 countries.
A recent addition to the Star Alliance network includes AeroGal from Ecuador, who as part of the Avianca Group now extends the Alliance’s network in Latin America to such exotic destinations as the Galapagos Islands.
Star Alliance is also the only Alliance to allow FFP members to use their miles to upgrade on any of its 27 member carriers. This year has also seen the implementation of new backend technology to further enhance our FFP service levels. Customers will now receive their mileage credits faster and any changes in status are shared quickly among all carriers. This means that new Gold Card holders in particular will have their status recognized a lot sooner by all member carriers.
Calin Rovinescu, President and CEO of Air Canada and current Chairman of the Star Alliance Chief Executive Board, stated that Air Canada’s decision to resume flights to Delhi next year is in part due to the fact that they can now offer connections to more than 40 destinations from Delhi, explaining the significance of Air India’s membership to Star Alliance.
Star Alliance member carriers plan to improve the quality of the network even further in the coming years – recent examples are the imminent Tokyo to Houston flights by ANA, Taipei to Houston flights by EVA Air and the planned South Atlantic Link between New Zealand and Argentina, just announced by Air New Zealand.
The Alliance will also concentrate on further improving customers’ end to end journeys, by enhancing the airport experience, Rovinescu added. The Alliance had already achieved a terrific improvement at London Heathrow this year, with the opening of the brand new Terminal 2 – home to 23 Star Alliance airlines.
While exploring further opportunities to introduce “seamless hubs”, Star Alliance will now leverage what it has learned and experienced from Terminal 2 Heathrow. One example will be the introduction of the “Gold Track” path through security for premium passengers at our major hubs in 2015.
Summarizing the way forward, Mark Shwab said “Star Alliance will continue to grow its global network, by optimizing connectivity in order to extract more value from the network, further improving customer experience by raising the consistency of their travel across the entire network and, last but not least, further incorporating new front- and backend technology to support our business”.