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Air India and the Star Alliance (Part II)

Air India and the Star Alliance (Part II)

Old Jul 31, 11, 9:19 am
  #241  
 
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Originally Posted by hyderago View Post
What posts made you think of this? From a passengers point of view, Air India has a very competitive hard product and service. As a customer, that's all that matters to me. If the government wants to hire lots of extra people and bleed cash for whatever reason, then let it as long as they take me safely, comfortably and cheaply to my destination.

More generally, I feel that all the Air India bashers haven't been on AI in years. They probably base their opinions on some old, static image they have of AI (or India in general).
Can't be bothered about listening to Russell Peters, but I can give some examples of shoddy service on my experience with AI - with whom I last flew YYZ-LHR-YYZ in summer 2010, before the direct flights started in Oct. Note, I flew the route a couple of times in both Y and J.

Price - Excellent. Good value for money given Air Canada's knack for price-gouging Canadians.

Seats - Y seat pitch was excellent at 33/34 (beats the daylights out of the 31/32 across BA/AC). J hardware was great too. Not quite 9W levels of privacy, but not half bad either.

Food - Excellent ex-LHR (J), mediocre/poor ex-YYZ. That said, YYZ catering is consistently mediocre across all carriers in all classes. Waiting to try out TK to see if my perception changes. Bland is the only word that comes to mind

IFE - AVOD, but poor. Poor selection. Poorly organized. English movies hidden away in the German language section (?!). I suspect its one of the poorer AVOD systems out there.

Service - As always, a tale of two halves. Not immaculate in J - I had to wait a good long while before I asked an FA to hang my coat (nobody offered) - direct contrast to 9W, AC, where you don't even get a chance to sit before someone offers to take it. Otherwise, experienced and generally good crew in J.

But in Y class ...dear God. On one leg, I chose an aisle seat. When I get to the plane, theres a rather grumpy lady sitting in my seat. I ask her to leave. Flat no. FA comes and explains to me that since mother and daughter are separated (both have middle seats in 2 of the 3 3-seat blocks), she took the liberty of switching my seat to a middle seat to get them together. Not wanting to create a scene, I agreed to the switch (but not without some theatrics from mother/daughter). IMHO, changing the seat may be an airline prerogative ( I don't know), but it was handled extremely badly. They could have warned me at the gate. Or even just asked me - the likelihood of me saying no is usually very low in these situations. But to change it on me in the plane, with pax cuing up behind me during boarding, and put me in a position where I am uncomfortable asking for my ASSIGNED seat on a plane? Unacceptable. That was a massive error IMHO, because, frankly, there are very few, if any *A carriers on which something like this would have gone down.

In fact, I can't think of any carrier where it would have. My last brush with a similar incident - on 9W J LHR-DEL - where a young girl was in the front of the cabin, and her mother had the window seat across from me somewhere mid-cabin - was handled with resounding ease in comparison. After I settled in, they asked me if I would be willing to change, given the situation (mother/daughter boarded late). They collected all my belongings and compensated me with a gift (cant remember - probably an F amenity kit), along with many apologies for inconvenience and thanks. The AI FA didn't bother uttering either word - her attitude was more like - your problem.

In the end it wasn't bad, since both my seatmates were good company (although one was drunk out of his mind for the first half, no thanks to the AI FA, who he thanked, each time, for the "room service"). That said, while its not unacceptable (lest I come across as a whiner), its not quite up to scratch with the kind of service one would expect from most carriers. And its not exactly the best way to treat a customer.

Website - The biggest problem by far. Had to book all my tickets through a TA in London. The Frequent Flyer program website (which is where *A comes in) is an utter and complete disaster. I tried logging in last night. Couldnt remember my password, so requested a password change. That led me to a page with 3 security questions of the absurd kind ("what did you want to study in college but didnt end up studying?"). I filled those out. Next page they asked me again. Put identical answers. "Sorry" the website said - your answers dont match. ...?. Finally found my password in an old email - before remembering the other problem with AI FF - they don't actually give you points till you send them a copy of your Boarding Pass. Last year, I didn't get points for my J legs till I followed up. And I still haven't gotten points for my last leg, in Y, which I haven't even bothered asking about. My BP, which I still have, has my AI FF number on it. Contrast this to 9W - who immediately credited for a Y+ flight on VS. Or AC, who've been good about crediting my flights on their Euro partners - with the odd hiccup here and there.

So yes, we all know about AIs new and improved product. But in many ways, it has a lot of improvement to undergo before it reaches 9W levels. I generally see AI as marginally better than AC in terms of actual flight experience (similar hit or miss crew, poor IFE on AI/poor catering on AC, poor seat pitch on AC), and they're probably both better than other *A stalwarts like UA and US, but frankly, if they can't even credit miles to their own customers on time, I fail to see why *A partners would want them messing up their frequent flyer systems. That might well be the biggest sticking point in all of this.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 10:41 am
  #242  
 
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Its past 17:30 hrs in frankfurt now. Does anyone know if the meeting is still going on?? I imagined by now we would get some sort of news.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 11:43 am
  #243  
 
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Originally Posted by yulred View Post

So yes, we all know about AIs new and improved product. But in many ways, it has a lot of improvement to undergo before it reaches 9W levels. I generally see AI as marginally better than AC in terms of actual flight experience (similar hit or miss crew, poor IFE on AI/poor catering on AC, poor seat pitch on AC), and they're probably both better than other *A stalwarts like UA and US.
I agree with what you've said. Air India has come a long way, but they still have a long way to go. The point I was trying to make was that people seem to bash AI like it's a piece of $#*! third-world airline. As you mentioned, it's probably no worse UA/CO/US/AC/AA. Yet, those airlines are treated like human beings while AI is treated like an animal.

Originally Posted by flyjet787 View Post
Its past 17:30 hrs in frankfurt now. Does anyone know if the meeting is still going on?? I imagined by now we would get some sort of news.
I'm just as curious as you. Can't find anything online. Guess we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed and wait.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 12:07 pm
  #244  
 
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Originally Posted by hyderago View Post
I agree with what you've said. Air India has come a long way, but they still have a long way to go. The point I was trying to make was that people seem to bash AI like it's a piece of $#*! third-world airline. As you mentioned, it's probably no worse UA/CO/US/AC/AA. Yet, those airlines are treated like human beings while AI is treated like an animal.


I'm just as curious as you. Can't find anything online. Guess we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed and wait.
Well, as unfortunate as it is, AI hasn't done much to improve it. If you look at the two most important aspects in an alliance relationship - customer interaction and management, AI has simply not bothered to improve. My one phone interaction with the AI office in YYZ was painful - I needed to change the date on a ticket and I was told to buy a new one (the travel agent changed it for 50GBP). And in my stint in India a couple of years ago, I got the impression that everyone has a similar story. I did fly AI domestically, and I didn't find them to be any better or worse than the local competition. They were certainly miles ahead of the AC/UA domestic types, with flights generally operating on time and good service.

Then theres the safety incidents whcih, though minor (I doubt many of them would be noticed in the west), are treated like the end of the world by an amusingly inept Indian media. Management has done nothing to counter them, nor has it done much to keep its pilots happy - I understand now that the pilots are writing letters to *A. Indeed, the entire AI corporate structure - with its random hiring and firing of experienced foreign folk - gives off more than a whiff of stagnant autocratic bureaucracy. It has a "We dont really care what you think" attitude, and I m afraid thats not going to cut it in this environment - not with Indians, and certainly not with westerners.

Of course, once you get onto the plane, the entire dynamic changes completely. The hard product is solid (minus a terrible AVOD - which, incidentally, is better than the AVOD on Air China, another *A carrier, and miles better than UA's various types of IFE depending on plane type), and the soft product isn't half bad. But the rest of the experience is not up to standard. The failure to build a proper FF program is the most glaring problem. To have that website not working a day before the induction meeting....inexcusable. Its very poor reputation among the travelling public - earned through decades of monopoly and bad service - are coming to haunt it now. And frankly, management hasn't done a thing to change. So yeah, I'd much rather be on an AI flight than a UA/AA one (who wouldn't? In any class of service), but UA's relationship with customers and its management of aspects important to alliances is far, far superior to AI.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 12:20 pm
  #245  
 
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One vote for AI

I for one wish AI to be inducted into *A. I am excited about the routing options this will open up. Of course it would be also nice if AI would get it's act together and improve itself, but I don't understand why this could not happen while being a star alliance partner airline. I vote for AI joining *A. ^
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Old Jul 31, 11, 2:25 pm
  #246  
 
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So... nothing today. I was so looking forward to getting some news from either *A or AI. Looks like we all have to wait for another day.

Does anyone know if the meeting actually took place?
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Old Jul 31, 11, 3:26 pm
  #247  
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Originally Posted by flyjet787 View Post
So... nothing today. I was so looking forward to getting some news from either *A or AI. Looks like we all have to wait for another day.

Does anyone know if the meeting actually took place?
i guess we should get some info tomorrow....
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Old Jul 31, 11, 4:31 pm
  #248  
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Originally Posted by Cheerfulflyer View Post
I for one wish AI to be inducted into *A. I am excited about the routing options this will open up. Of course it would be also nice if AI would get it's act together and improve itself, but I don't understand why this could not happen while being a star alliance partner airline. I vote for AI joining *A. ^
Airlines don't necessarily have to improve their level of service to join an alliance (any alliance, not just *A). There are plenty of airlines in *A with so-so service (UA & US come to my mind). Each member airline still has to compete with its regional & global competitors, thus each has to run a certain business model that fits its markets. It certainly would be nice for everyone to rise to the standards of SQ & NH, but not every market can afford the equivalents of what SQ & NH charge.

LAX
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Old Jul 31, 11, 4:36 pm
  #249  
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Hallelujah !!!!!

http://boardingarea.com/blogs/flying...fore-it-joins/
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Old Jul 31, 11, 5:08 pm
  #250  
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Originally Posted by Keyser View Post
i guess we should get some info tomorrow....
Technically, it's Sunday - in some places.

Star Alliance is making itself almost as bad as AI as far as timely decisions are concerned. Maybe they are meant for each other. It's easy to say "Sorry AI, you blew it, but it has not done that even as Sun begins to rise on Monday. Clearly someone wants them bad. We were told that even if one member votes against AI, it's out. Well has any member voted against AI or not? If they haven't why not? If they have, why hasn't why isn't the issue dead? In any case, what's holding up the decision. Surely, Star Alliance's indecisiveness cannot be blamed on [email protected]:-)

Last edited by Yaatri; Jul 31, 11 at 5:19 pm Reason: Star Alliance indecisiveness.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 5:17 pm
  #251  
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Originally Posted by Yaatri View Post
Technically, it's Sunday - in some places.

Star Alliance is making itself almost as bad as AI as far as timely decisions are concerned. Maybe they are meant for each other.
NO they are not!!! AI had since 2007 to shape up or ship out for good. I have a strong feeling that Jet is gonna be announced as the next Star partner. Thank the holy one!!!
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Old Jul 31, 11, 5:21 pm
  #252  
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Originally Posted by djjaguar64 View Post
NO they are not!!! AI had since 2007 to shape up or ship out for good. I have a strong feeling that Jet is gonna be announced as the next Star partner. Thank the holy one!!!
Surely, they are.

Who is denying that they did not?
Why hasn't they walked away from AI? Posting a blog on stale news, nay rumour, is just an opinion, maybe wishful.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 5:25 pm
  #253  
 
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FYI: Star Alliance's CEO had stated earlier this week he expected the debate over whether or not to admit Air India into Star Alliance could drag into Monday before a full vote is taken.

As of yesterday it seemed at least two airlines were dead set on vetoing Air India, with others also teetering on vetoing entry, however influence of other members could be exerted to sway votes for various reasons.

While it is now Monday in Frankfurt, we may not know the outcome until late Monday.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 6:36 pm
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Originally Posted by sefrischling View Post
FYI: Star Alliance's CEO had stated earlier this week he expected the debate over whether or not to admit Air India into Star Alliance could drag into Monday before a full vote is taken.

As of yesterday it seemed at least two airlines were dead set on vetoing Air India, with others also teetering on vetoing entry, however influence of other members could be exerted to sway votes for various reasons.

While it is now Monday in Frankfurt, we may not know the outcome until late Monday.
I wasn't aware of the possibility of this debate extending into Monday. Most of the debate here is drawing on what's published in the Indian media and blogs, both of which are quite unreliable.
I thought they * members were going to vote on AI's membership, and the decision would be announced on Sunday, while AI made more optimistic statements that the date of their induction would be announced today.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 7:08 pm
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Yaatri,

Considering a few months back I wrote a blog post on Air India that appeared almost verbatim in an Indian newspaper the following day ... I can't say I trust certain elements of the Indian media as well ... however, in this case, Air India is posturing and blowing a lot of smoke.

The fact is that Air India is in serious trouble as we all know. The Star Alliance member CEOs can look past poor customer service, an interior website, flight schedule reliability issues, they can even look past labour issues and government interference ... what they cannot overlook is the financial state of the airline.

Air India is massively in debt, has liquidity issues, has repeated problems paying employees, paying for fuel, paying airport fees and is about to miss its third loan interest payment in a row. Member airlines need to factor in the stability of the airline, the ability of Air India to keep up its financial stake in Star Alliance and pay its way in the alliance (such as paying for FFP award seats, marketing cost, joint lounges, etc).

The vote to allow or disallow Air India to join Star Alliance was scheduled for Sunday, but we're now well into Monday in India and in Germany, with no answer. Some airlines have a greater interest in Air India joining, some have less of an interest. Those with a greater stake in Air India joining are in debates with those who no longer wish to allow the airline into the alliance.

Keep in mind that one firm veto blocks Air India from joining. This mean, for example, if Singapore Airlines digs its heals in and says "NO" and they have no intention if being swayed into saying yes ... the Exec Board could extend the voting period until they are satisfied with the vote of Yes or No.

Air India needed to meet the 75+ entry requirements by July 31st, but Star Alliance does not need to confirm their entry by July 31st.
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