New Delhi: Paving the way for Air India's entry into the largest global airlines' grouping, Star Alliance today unanimously decided to recommence the national carrier's integration process that was suspended in 2011.
"Today we see an Air India which has successfully completed its merger with Indian Airlines and is building up a new fleet that forms the basis for a much improved level of service. This is why we believe the time is now right to recommence the integration process," Mark Schwab, Star Alliance CEO, said after a board meeting of the 28-member grouping in Vienna.
Air India CMD Rohit Nandan, who is also in the Austrian capital, said, "Today is a historic day for Air India. The decision to recommence the Star Alliance integration process will be beneficial for both sides. We are grateful for the warmth, support and encouragement with which all Alliance members have welcomed the decision."
The Alliance had put the proposal for Air India's entry into the grouping on hold since July 2011 on the grounds that the airline had not fulfilled major conditions to join it, a charge the Indian carrier had then denied.
Air India was originally accepted as a future member of Star Alliance in December 2007, but the integration process was halted in July 2011.
The suspension was a joint decision to allow Air India to focus on completing its merger "without the distraction of the work required for full integration into the Star Alliance network," the alliance said in a statement from Vienna.
At one stage, Jet Airways was also vying with Air India to join the same grouping.
Schwab said, "Star Alliance has long held the opinion that India is such an important aviation market that it should be fully represented in the Alliance.
"However, the level of change in the domestic market in recent years did not make it easy for an airline to become an alliance member. The market in India is now showing signs of stabilisation," the group CEO said.
Once the airline becomes a member, its passengers would enjoy major benefits, including seamless transfers on travel across the world, more frequent flyer mileage points, code- sharing leading to a wider choice of flights and access to over 1,000 lounges at airports worldwide.
The Star Alliance network offers 21,900 daily flights to 1,328 airports in 195 countries.