Air India played host to the first ever Star Alliance Chief Executive Board Meeting (CEB) held in India. This follows the national carrier’s 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 today, Rohit Nandan, CMD Air India, thanked all CEOs for traveling to India and for a productive two-day meeting. He emphasized that for Air India membership in Star Alliance it 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.
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% in the number of passengers transferring between Air India and other Star Alliance member carriers, mainly through Delhi or Mumbai but also at other airports such as London or Newark. Frequent Flyers are also taking advantage of the Alliance benefits, with over 80,000 having earned miles while flying on Air India since July and more than 20,000 Air India Flying Returns FFP members having miles credited for flights on 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. Nandan further commented that he was optimistic that Heathrow Airport would look positively on Air India’s request to join the other 23 Star Alliance member carriers now operating out of the new Terminal 2 – the Queen’s Terminal. “London is our main destination in Europe and anything we can do to offer better transfer facilities would be a real gain for us and Star Alliance.”
In thanking Rohit Nandan for hosting the CEB meeting, Mark Schwab, Star Alliance CEO, assured him of the Alliance’s support in this endeavour.
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”.
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 Asia/Pacific.
Air India also enhances the global Star Alliance FFP proposal, which now offers customers the possibility to collect and redeem miles on worldwide network of 18,500 daily flights, serving 1,321 destinations in 193 countries.
A recent addition to the network includes AeroGal from Ecuador, who as part of the Avianca Group now extend 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 faster among all carriers. This means that new Gold Card holders in particular will have their status recognised a lot sooner by all member carriers.
In closing, Calin Rovinescu, President and CEO of Air Canada and current Chairman of the Star Alliance Chief Executive Board, thanked both Nandan and Schwab, especially for achieving the Air India integration in record time.
As an example of the importance of the Air India membership, Rovinescu stated that an Air Canada 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.
Overall the Star Alliance member carriers would be improving the quality of the network even further in the coming years – recent examples are the planned 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 would 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 its learnings and experience 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.
Summarising the way forward, Star Alliance will continue to grow its global network, by optimising connectivity in order to extract more value from the network, further improving customer experience by raising the consistency of our travel experience across the entire network and, last but not least, further incorporating new front- and backend technology to support our business.