Air India is making a fresh pitch to join the 28-member Star Alliance after its membership was put on hold in 2011 on grounds that it did not meet the joining requirements. Air India's chairman Rohit Nandan and director (commercial) Deepak Brara are in Frankfurt to discuss the issues related to the airline's Star Alliance bid with Lufthansa airline's CEO Christoph Franz. The duo are also expected to meet senior executives from Star Alliance.
The renewal of talks between Air India and Star Alliance comes amidst the union cabinet giving its nod to enhanced traffic rights to Abu Dhabi enabling Jet Airways-Etihad Airways to launch multiple services to various points in Europe and the US.
"We are keen to join the alliance and fulfilled all the joining conditions. Joining another alliance such as oneworld or SkyTeam will involve fresh start and will be time consuming,'' said an Air India executive. An another executive said Air India had waited two years for membership and wants the issue resolved soon.
Lufthansa is Air India's mentor for joining the airline grouping. Air India's integration into the alliance was "suspended'' in 2011 by the Star Alliance board which said the airline had not fulfilled the requirements. However then Air India had insisted that it met all the parameters. Before Air India’s application was put on hold, it had paid €10 million (about Rs 69 crore) since May 2008 to Star Alliance, as part of the joining fee.
While Lufthansa and other board members were keen to admit Jet Airways into Star Alliance alongside Air India the national carrier opposed the move as it would lose the first mover advantage. Even as Air India was kept out of the alliance Jet Airways and Lufthansa were working out a wider partnership including code share pacts covering Europe and US. Jet Airways received an in principle nod from the civil aviation ministry for the code share agreement but the plan fizzled after airline began negotiating a stake sale agreement with Etihad Airways last August.
Star Alliance is the largest of the three airline alliances of the world, the other two being SkyTeam and oneworld. Star Alliance includes Lufthansa, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International. A membership in the group ensures shared benefits to members and seamless travel to passengers.