Ten years old this year, the Star Alliance is adding three large Asian airlines to its membership.
At a ceremony in Beijing Capital International Airport's new Terminal Three, Air China and Shanghai Airlines formally joined the Star Alliance yesterday to increase the alliance's list of full members to 19 carriers.
Today, at the Star Alliance annual board meeting, also in Beijing, the CEOs of its member airlines voted to accept Air India's application to become a future member.
With the addition of the two Chinese airlines, the Star Alliance will offer some 17,000 daily flights to 897 destinations in 160 countries. Air China and Shanghai Airlines have added more than 40 new Chinese domestic destinations to the Star Alliance network.
The Star Alliance has evolved a two-hub strategy in China, concentrating on improving the major hub airports Beijing Capital and Shangai-Pudong to provide better connections between international flights and Chinese domestic destinations.
As part of the strategy, Beijing Terminal 3 — scheduled to open in March 2008, in time to increase the airport's international passenger capacity in time for the 2008 Olympic Games at Beijing — will serve as the new home for all Star Alliance member airlines serving China's capital. Air China is based at Beijing Capital International Airport and operates a fleet of more than 200 aircraft on a domestic and international network that reaches 39 cities in 26 countries outside China.
In March 2008, also, Shanghai-Pudong's new Terminal 2 will open. All Star Alliance airlines serving Shanghai will use the new terminal.
As part of the plan to build up Shanghai-Pudong's hub capabilities, Shanghai Airlines plans to increase its fleet from its current 59 aircraft to 100 by 2010. Among the aircraft to be added are Boeing 787s that Shanghai Airlines originally expected to receive in 32008, but which now will be delivered in 2009 as a result of the six-month delay the manufacturer announced in the 787 flight-test program.
Shanghai Airlines is planning to strengthen its domestic network and to begin long-haul flights to Europe and North America with the additional aircraft, as part of its effort to build its Shanghai-Pudong hub.
Speaking of the Star Alliance CEOs' vote to accept Air India's membership application, board meeting chairman Glenn Tilton, CEO of United Airlines, said: "India has long been on the radar of Star Alliance — after all, it is one of the world's fastest-growing economies and aviation markets. Having now come to an agreement with Air India makes us the first airline alliance to secure a member in India."
Following government approval, Air India has begun merging with former domestic state-owned carrier Indian Airlines. The merged airlines, which will operate under the Air India name, will have more than 115 aircraft and have announced deals to add more than 100 further aircraft to the fleet.
In addition to its 19 existing full members, the Star Alliance also recently welcomed Slovenia's Adria Airways, Finland's Blue1 and Croatia Airlines as regional members. In accepting Air India's application, meanwhile, the Star Alliance is set to grow to 22 full members, having previously accepted applications by EgyptAir and Turkish Airlines to become future members.