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Air India May Not Join Star Alliance After All

Air India, which had been invited to join Star Alliance, may have its invitation rescinded after the airline has repeatedly delayed meeting the requirements necessary to join the group. Star has a gaping hole in India, and while it has ample flights to the region from other areas (including several nonstops from the U.S. on Continental), intra-India travel has exploded and Star needs a partner there (Kingfisher, a leading domestic carrier in India, is tied with Oneworld), though Air India only holds about 15% market share on domestic flights.

Air India, however, is a mess, losing $1 billion a year, even as the rest of the industry in India has pulled itself back from the brink a couple of years ago. Plus, they’ve faced repeated pilot strikes causing far too frequent delays and cancellations throughout the system. Worse, they have rather outdated practices, including scheduling their 1,600 by hand using paper and pencil rather than a computer system.

The NY Times has also reported on safety concerns at the airline, noting that pilots will sometimes cover the cockpit windows with newspaper to keep out sunlight; pilots are frequently found smoking in the cockpit; cockpit doors are frequently left unlocked; and captains will leave the cockpit for long stretches of time.

Add to this extreme political pressure from local government representatives to add routes to their little-flown areas, and you end up with an airline that loses money on 95% of its routes. Said one Air India exec: ““I feel like a woman with 1,000 husbands.”

The airline has about 80 items on their integration list still outstanding, and Star has given them until July to complete those.

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