Saturday, October 2, 2010

Air India Falls Short Of Star Membership Deadline Again

Airline Alliances
Aviation Daily Oct 04 , 2010 , p. 07
Neelam Mathews

It has been a long road for Star Alliance and its future member Air India, whose entry into Star has been delayed by information technology issues. The carrier will now join the world’s largest alliance next summer (instead of March), Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht told The DAILY in Addis Ababa following an announcement that Ethiopian Airlines would join the alliance within 12-18 months.

An Air India spokesman, while unable to confirm a date for completion of the $190-million SITA migration for the Passenger Services System, said, We are targeting the first quarter of 2011. All systems are in place, but the problem is integrating the two codes of Indian Airlines (domestic) and Air India (international), as they are on two parallel tracks.” The two airlines are now part of the holding company National Aviation Company of India Ltd. (NACIL).

While the contract was to be completed within 300 days, an official told The DAILY in April, when the contract was signed, that this was a mammoth task and would take a year.

“We knew this was difficult. The new target now is mid-2011,” Albrecht confirmed. He added that Air India is going forward "full steam.”

Air India has been addressing four different issues simultaneously, said Albrecht. "There is the protocol program between Air India and Indian Airlines, migration to the new reservations program, fleet modernization to integrate with safety and, lastly, the alliance.”

The Air India official said employees were being sent for training on the SITA system.

The IT project has been riddled with difficulties. The integration must meet certain compliance standards that first have to be worked out between the two NACIL carriers. Unlike Jet Airways, which has a frequent flyer program (FFP) that is integrated with its subsidiary carriers, Air India’s FFP must build a tier system, such as Gold and Platinum, to enable it to integrate with Star members. To do that, its FFP must first be integrated with the Indian Airlines program. This remains a major issue, an airline official told The DAILY.

"The dynamism is missing, and there is also a concern about motivation at Air India as nobody is willing to take responsibility for fear of being blamed if there is a failure,” says an analyst.

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