A team of Star Alliance, which has decided to restart Air India's integration process suspended since 2011, will arrive in New Delhi on Wednesday to assess the steps needed to be taken by the national carrier to blend its network with that of the global airlines' grouping.
"A Star Alliance Team will arrive here on December 18. They will carry out gap analysis. I am working on a very tight schedule on a day-to-day basis. The entire process is likely to take three-four months but it will depend on what they would require," AI CMD Rohit Nandan said on arrival from Vienna on Sunday.
The team will be staying here for a couple of days to carry out gap analysis.
Gap analysis is a technique that businesses use to determine the steps needed to be taken to move from the current state to the desired future state. In this case, it would be blending Air India's network with that of the 28- member Star Alliance.
"The re-integration process will begin now. There have been some fresh requirements brought into the structure since 2011. We will have to do a gap analysis to integrate with the system," Air India officials said.
The integration process involves integration of the airline's flight network, booking systems, matching of frequent flyer programmes and access to lounges in home countries of the airline, among other things.
Such integration would enable seamless travel by a passenger from a foreign destination to a domestic destination, by switching flights and airlines which are members of the alliance.
Passengers would get a wider choice of flights, earn frequent flyer mileage points and gain access to over 1,000 alliance members' lounges while flying on the entire Star Alliance network.
The network offers 21,900 daily flights to 1,328 airports in 195 countries. Among its 28 members are airlines like Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, South African Airways, Austrian, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways.
The integration process is likely to be completed in about 3 months, Air India sources said.
Industry analysts feel that Air India's entry into Star Alliance would give stiff competition to the Gulf-based carriers which are practically dominating the burgeoning Indian market through their own large networks and tie-ups with Indian carriers.
In a statement from Vienna, Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab said his airline grouping "has long held the opinion that India is such an important aviation market that it should be fully represented in the Alliance".
He had also pointed out that "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".
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 had said in a statement.
The Star Alliance decision to resume the integration process for Air India came at a time when the national carrier was improving its market share, passenger revenue, load factor and on-time performance, as reflected in its performance in the second quarter of the current financial year.