"After that (Etihad-Jet) deal , let me say that doors are shut for Jet," said Christian Klick, vice-president, Corporate, Star Alliance, speaking to Business Today on the sidelines of a media gathering during a two-day visit to the country. With Air India having been announced as a possible member of the alliance that has a 23.6% market share and access to 1,328 global destinations through its network, Star left room for one more of country's premium airlines to be inducted into its fold as a second member. It was keen on Jet.
But Jet never committed itself to this alliance and thereby caused a lot of problems for Air India. Star member airlines in 2011 blocked Air India's entry and it was widely believed that a pending decision by Jet was one of the reasons for that. Jet did move an application before the government requesting allowing it to be a second alliance memeber.
Air India and Star Alliance however got back to negotiations late in 2013 and it is now believed that after Air India completes its integration process (for IT, and contractual obligations for frequent flier miles etc) that is currently underway it will be inducted as a member airline, possibly in June when the Star Alliance board meets for its summer session at London.
Klick however refused to put a timeline to the completion of integration process. "Member carriers have to perform all steps in the integration process before the induction is announced. Integration process (with Air India) is on track," he said.
"India is a huge market and there will be need for additional services and we will need further partners in India," Klick added, indicating the alliance's willingness to rope in a second airline. However, he cleared the air on reports that the group was in discussion with India's largest budget airline IndiGo for a possible tie-up.
Budget carriers normally are kept out of the purview of the global alliances but Klick said that the growing might of the low cost carriers is definitely making the management of the Star Alliance look at the possibility of inducting low cost airlines.
"Star Alliance management will look at all possibilities and we are not yet disclosing anything. And we are not in discussion (with IndiGo) at a formal level," he said.
After Air India is inducted as a member its passengers will have access to seamless connectivity and other fly mile benefits offered by its 28 airline partners (like German carrier Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines) with more than 21,900 daily flights and airport lounge access.
Air India is currently implementing its financial and operational restructuring programme after the government has put it on a tight performance leash as it doled out a package worth Rs 30,000 crore as equity to be infused into the airline.