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New Delhi: National carrier Air India is finally set to join the global inter-line pact of Star Alliance, a senior official said Friday.

“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,” Air India’s chairman and managing direct (CMD) Rohit Nandan, who attended the Star Alliance meet held in Vienna said.

Mark Schwab, chief executive of Star Alliance, said India is a vital market for the alliance and it should find representation in the global inter-line pact.

“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,” Schwab said.

“The market in India is now showing signs of stabilisation. 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,” he added.

The Indian national carrier was originally accepted as a future member of Star Alliance in December 2007, but the integration process was halted in July 2011, over various reasons like financial and labour problems and bad press over safety issues.

“Air India’s suspension has been revoked and the joining process has been started. This decision was taken by the board of Star Alliance today (Friday),” a senior Air India official told IANS.

The official, who wished to remain unidentified said that the integration process will help Air India in streamlining its ticketing and frequent flyer programmes with that of the other things inter-line members.

The official added that though at a very early stage, Air India is looking at joining the Alliance within early next year.

“We had earlier completed all the mandatory requirements of joining the alliance like a single-operations code. So the process should not take much longer now,” the official said.

The airline had earlier completed all the pre-procedural steps like certain minimum joining requirements, which involved development and testing of information technology (IT) systems, and procedures to harmonise the products with other member airlines. Apart from operating under a single-operations code of AI.

Air India has wanted to join Star Alliance ever since it was invited in 2007 as it entails benefits such as improved product offering, better service standards, access to new markets and premium customers and partnership with leading global carriers.

The pact also entails sharing of airport lounges and synchronisation of flight schedules, which will permit seamless travel for a passenger on a single air ticket, even if it requires flying several carriers on a single journey.

It also provides a wider access of travel options, lounge access and integrated frequent flyer programmes for the travellers on the inter-line network.

Formed in 1997, Star Alliance is a consortium of 28 airlines, including Lufthansa, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Swiss, among other major airlines of the world.

Its members handle more than 21,900 daily flights to 1,328 airports in 195 countries.

Currently, Air India operates flights to 59 domestic destinations and has a network of 31 international routes with a fleet of 111, which includes Airbus A-319, A-320, A-321, A-330, Boeing 737, B-777, B-747 and B-787 Dreamliners apart from ATR-42 and CRJ aircraft.

Source: IANS