State-run carrier Air India is soon expected to join the Star Alliance, a grouping of 17 international airlines, even as negotiations are on with Jet Airways for a similar pact, a top official of the alliance has said.
"We understand Air India had a board meeting one of these days with the (Star) Alliance participation on the agenda," Jaan Albrecht, chief executive of the group told IANS in Bangkok on Thursday.
"Indications are that they are also keen on participation with Star Alliance," Albrecht said the sidelines of a seminar to mark the 10th anniversary of Star Alliance called the "Asia Forum 2007: The Future of Aviation".
"One pre-condition was the merger between Air India and Indian Airlines and it has been approved by the government," he said, referring to the government's go ahead to run the two state-run carriers as one entity.
Established in 1997, Star Alliance is world's largest airline alliance and has 17 members with total revenue exceeding $114 billion. Together, they serve 855 airports in 155 countries with 16,500 flights daily.
Its main competitors are Skyteam and Oneworld.
Albrecht said Star Alliance has been keen to partner India not just because of the growing aviation market there but also because its alliance partners will have access to its fast-expanding domestic and international network.
"We have appointed a project manager especially for India to talk to different airlines and airports in India to co-allocate us (Star Alliance member airlines) at one terminal."
On the issue of partnering with other carriers in India, the Star Alliance chief said talks were on with Jet Airways. "Several of our members already have ties with Jet Airways. We are discussing internally and discussing with Jet Airways."
Yet, he said, the final decision will depend on how the merger with Sahara was shaping up. "Now with international flights what Jet Airways doing is important for India."
Albrecht said a consolidation among airlines in India was inevitable for their sustainability.
"The development in India is very interesting for us. So many new entrances and low cost airlines are coming into the market. We knew some kind of consolidation had to take place," he said
"With far too many players, too much competition, it was not sustainable."
During the discussions at the seminar, which was inaugurated by Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, the aviation sector of India and China generated the maximum interest amongst participants.