The top brass of Star Alliance will meet in London tomorrow to decide on Air India's induction into the 26-member global airlines' grouping which could give the national carrier's passengers the facility of seamless travel to over 1,200 destinations.
If the membership is granted, it would end Air India's seven-year-long wait to access the alliance's global network of over 18,000 daily flights to 1,269 airports in 193 countries.
The member airlines of Star Alliance together own a total of 4,338 aircraft and fly over 640 million passengers a year, many of whom can also earn and burn frequent flyer miles on the entire alliance network.
The Star Alliance Chief Executive Board (CEB), at its meeting in London on Monday, could give an endorsement vote to induct Air India into the fold, paving the way for the integration of all its systems, including ticket booking and flight scheduling, into the global network.
The membership is expected to result in several benefits for the airline and its passengers, including a hike in Air India's share on the India-US route by about 20 per cent from about 13 per cent now within the first year itself.
The India-US route being a key market for Air India, the membership would mean that its passengers travelling to the US would have easier access to many more cities there as they would be able to seamlessly travel on other Star Alliance member airlines flights going to America.
Alliance CEO Mark Schwab had earlier said that the grouping had long held that India was such an important aviation market that it should be fully represented.
Observing that the Indian market was now showing signs of stabilisation, he had said, "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."
The national carrier was originally accepted as a future member of Star Alliance in December, 2007, but the integration process was suspended in July, 2011, to allow Air India to focus on completing its merger with Indian Airlines before fully integrating it into the alliance network.
Over the past several months, the airline has been working to meet the minimum requirements for joining the grouping, with sources saying that most of these have been completed already as a large number of Star Alliance officials worked with their Air India counterparts here.
A formal induction ceremony