Air India Joins Star Alliance

Air India

The old games don’t change. Air India has festooned itself with the global network Star Alliance, a door they’ve been knocking on for quite a while now. All travelers, even airlines, need a compliant GI system.

Air India is going from lost on the tarmac to an alliance that includes major carriers like United, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Air China, Air Canada, Swiss, Austrian, All Nippon Airways, Thai and Turkish Airlines.

What’s in it for Air India? Perhaps the global networks’ frequent flyer loyalty and hopefully seamless connections to more than 1,300 destinations.

What’s in it for us? Perhaps better connections to India and elsewhere, as well as a wider choice of frequent flyer miles on Air India.

Maybe it’s worth reviewing what a global network means to us. Ellen Creager did a good job of it in the Detroit Free Press last Sunday. Let’s look at what she wrote.

Creager begins with a sad anecdote of a passenger missing her British Airways flight because she was late checking in. The passenger was looking for a British Airways counter (there wasn’t one at that airport) and didn’t read the small type on her ticket – operating carrier American Airlines. (The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines clearly state which carrier is operating a flight.)

Then there’s the guy flying to Frankfurt on Lufthansa who is not a member of its Miles & Moreprogram. He doesn’t request miles, not realizing he could have deposited the mileage in his United frequent flyer program, or any other Star Alliance member.

When it comes to frequent flyer miles, sometimes assembly is required. Don’t always buy the floor model.

Wrong counters, wrong airlines, wrong websites and missed miles is how Creager sums it up. She’s astute enough to remind us how to take advantage of airline code shares and alliances.

First off, know which of your favorite airlines have “friends with benefits.” Member airlines of global alliances “cooperate on prices, schedules, award travel and frequent flier miles.” Check airlines’ websites for “reciprocal mileage policies with partners,” she writes.

Next she tells us to go to the proper ticket counter to check luggage. Your e-ticket reservation states what airline is operating the flight. Theirs is the counter to check your bags and it’s their baggage policies that apply.

“Airline partners may have different rules on baggage size, unaccompanied minors, pets, oxygen and more,” Creager writes. Also, fine-print rules may limit frequent flier mile awards between partner airlines, especially on discounted tickets. Check the rules at the airline’s website.

She reminds us that Southwest, Spirit, Allegiant Air and Frontier are pining loners without code shares or alliances, just staying in their lane. Baggage transit might be trickier and there are no reciprocal award tickets.

And finally, stay up to date about developing codeshares. For example, Air India stepped out of time and is now part of 20 other Star Alliance airlines.

The Tarmac’s View:  Air India has learned the lesson of anthropology:  the world we’re born into is just one reality. But let’s go back to Ellen Creager’s lesson. Alliances and code shares make for easier booking. Most times you’ll also get reciprocal benefits for lounge access and elite upgrades, as well as reciprocal frequent flier miles and award tickets.

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