Air India's hope of joining the Star Alliance this summer could get adversely affected if safety regulators in European Union (EASA), Singapore (CAAS), Japan (CAB), UAE (GCAA) and others follow the move of US regulator FAA of downgrading India's safety ranking to category 2 from category 1.
A member with the national carrier's team that pitched for the airline to become a member of the Star Alliance said Air India's entry into the alliance could see additional passenger revenue of anywhere between Rs 150 crore to Rs 400 crore, as per conservative estimates of the airline. An industry expert however said that since the FAA downgrades were done according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Regulations, a specialised agency of the UN, a move by other regulatory bodies — especially from European Union — could hurt the national carrier's capacity to raise additional revenues by being a member of Star Alliance.
At present 28 airlines are part of Star Alliance. Among these, 11 airlines hail from Europe, 7 from Asia, 6 from North and South America, 3 from Africa and one from New Zealand. “After entering the Star Alliance, Air India is set to make money through code share with European airlines. But the moment EASA downgrades DGCA, no European carrier would enter into a code sharing agreement with the national carrier,” the expert said.
“We will have to wait and see whether the regulators from other countries downgrade DGCA or not. This would be a political move as many of the countries, who could potentially downgrade DGCA for failing to comply by the ICAO regulations, want more market access and bilateral ties with India. So we will be in a bargaining position and decisions by other regulators to downgrade us will be taken after a lot of considerations,” he added.
A former executive director with Air India also acknowledged that if the European Union decides to downgrade DGCA, the future plans to code share with European airlines would be affected.
“There is no bar of having code sharing agreement with European carriers now.