Air India back in the running for *A, taking Jet Airways along?

Just a couple of days back I was flipping through the Star Alliance magazine, and was wondering where were they going with Air India because there was no mention in the magazine of AI. However, it definitely was not a closed chapter since AI definitely needs to get into an alliance (amongst other things), to be able to get more traffic on its planes and shore up its finances.

Last year, *A left AI on the altar when the airline was grabbing all the wrong headlines for safety issues, financial issues and the systematic failure that it was going to become. There was also news that the Government of India did not appreciate that *A wanted a second partner in India in Jet Airways. Quite like a brat, I’d say. Subsequently, murmurs went around that they did also have discussions with the SkyTeam, but nothing seemed to have move forward there. Heads rolled at Air India since this debacle, as it was as much of a PR debacle as a factual one.

This morning, an Indian newspaper reported that both sides are thawing their stance and they may have a relook at AI joining *A. This move hinges on the fact that there are new people at the helm of both parties and there are some changes in the circumstances now. Mark Schwab is the new CEO for Star Alliance since the last quarter of 2011, and Rohit Nandan is the new chief executive at Air India. Since the last time things flared up in July 2011, Air India has gotten better in terms of revenues, partly because of the partial failure of Kingfisher Airlines.

As per the report, Air India and the Government of India have now climbed down from their stance of “being the only Indian carrier in *A”, to being the “First Indian carrier in *A”. While this was hush hush before, the airline has now admitted to this issue being a bone of contention earlier. And yes, looks like Jet Airways is the clear contender for second place, since Kingfisher was always likely to go with oneworld till they decided to put it ‘on hold’. There were talks of Indigo (6E) entering the fray but right now it does not seem the case.

Who will be the winner in getting the most amount of traffic from Star Alliance is an open question. However, AI will have things going for it, if it decides to induct the 787s and can use them wisely, along with a good product. In terms of network they both look competitive, however AI has spread out far in Asia and Europe as well where 9W is not going yet. Some of these routes will obviously be rehashed as a part of the network plan with *A. Not surprisingly, both AI and 9W have their European stopovers in Star Alliance hubs (Brussels for 9W and Frankfurt for AI).

Air India's International Route network







Jet Airways' International Route Network








I seriously hope the Star Alliance and B787 chapter can be used by these guys to kick in a good word of mouth on the back of a great product. Now lets see if this time around they do join, or is it just another reason to grab some drinks together again. Or maybe just another public forum to convince Indian Government to let Lufthansa bring their big birds (A380s) to India?


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Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. @Rohit, maybe it did not come out right or maybe the interpretation is not right. I meant, put those 787’s in the air, use them to start from a scratch and develop the best product you can offer. get people to talk about it, like when Jet’s services caught everyone’s attention.

    I frequently ask my colleagues from outside India to travel Jet and they do come back with their mind blown on the F and the J, even those who travel Y.

    As for why *A should have bent, I don’t see the reason for why they should go after AI. We all know the finances of AI mean they need to fix things right and get that 10% growth in traffic they claim of, and we can discuss this no end, but the hand has been played, and AI blinked first.

  2. Oh – and on a slightly unrelated note, thank you for admitting that Air India actually has a decent product (in my opinion the best in India). Far too many people just focus on the negatives of AI and refuse to acknowledge the positives.

  3. I’m furious. AI has no reason whatsoever to give up their exclusivity in *A. They have always had the upper hand – *A can’t afford to get shut out of India.

    I don’t understand why they always go running back and beg to be let in when they don’t need to. Let Star Alliance do the begging!

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