Air India to restart talks with Star as government eases norms

India's national carrier Air India is resuming membership talks with Star Alliance after the airline has met all prerequisites for joining the global airline grouping, reports quoting AI chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan said.

"The new Star Alliance CEO will visit India by the end of this month or next month to discuss the membership. We fulfilled all the joining requirements last year. Membership of a second airline was the bone of contention then," he said in an interview with The Economic Times.

Talks in August last year had been stalled because the government, which owns AI, was against Star's insistence that a second Indian airline (privately owned Jet Airways) be allowed to join the alliance. However, the government has now changed its stance, Nandan said.

Mark Schwab, the recently appointed chief executive of the 27-member Star Alliance, is scheduled to visit India soon when the talks will go forward, Nandan said.

He, however, insisted on first rights for the government-run airline. "All we want is to be the first airline from India to join Star. Other airlines could join after us," he said.

Star Alliance's member airlines include German carrier Lufthansa, which founded the alliance, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, Air China and All Nippon Airways. Overall, the Star Alliance network offers more than 21,200 daily flights to 1,185 airports in 185 countries.

Air India has total debt of Rs43,000 crore and has accumulated losses of nearly Rs20,000 crore. It has not been able to pay salaries to its 28,000 workforce since December, leading to simmering agitation particularly by pilots.