Air India was invited to join Star Alliance in 2007. Joining an alliance generally takes about 2 years. Air India couldn’t get their service and IT systems in order to meet base level standards of the alliance, and their invitation was suspended in 2011.
Star was backed into Air India as their only choice in this huge market.
As Air India’s original application to join Star crumbled, the alliance began talks with Jet Airways to become India’s Star Alliance member. At the time the Indian government made clear that they wouldn’t permit Jet to join an alliance until Air India did. (Kingfisher was slated to join oneworld, which is led by American Airlines and British Airways, but went bankrupt before they could do so.)
Air India award space is now searchable at the websites of ANA Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles and Aeroplan.
Their US routes are Chicago and New York JFK – Delhi and Newark – Mumbai.
My initial take is that award availability seems pretty good for one passenger in business class, less frequently for two. Availability is good for domestic flights. I’m even seeing some first class award space for one passenger Chicago – Delhi and Delhi – London. Coach is a gimme.
One-way award costs through some common Star Alliance programs:
- American Express transfer partner Aeroplan charges 50,000, 75,000, and 105,000 miles respectively for coach, business and first class between the US and India. Air India appears to be another airline that Aeroplan does not collect fuel surcharges on!
- Chase transfer partner United MileagePlus charges 42,500, 80,000, and 140,000 miles respectively for coach, business and first class between the US and India. No fuel surcharges as United does not collect them for travel on any airline.
- American Express and Chase transfer partner Singapore Airlines Krisflyer charges 52,500, 97,500, and 132,500 miles respectively for coach, business and first class between the US and India.
- Perennial mileage discounter Avianca LifeMiles charges 45,000, 67,500, and 90,000 miles respectively for coach, business and first class between the US and India. No fuel surcharges as LifeMiles does not collect them for travel on any airline.
For me this adds Indian domestic connectivity and some decent connecting options through Europe.