Air India Star Alliance Gold Experience

Air India recently joined Star Alliance and I had my first flight on them since their joining, AI 803 New Delhi – Bangalore.

Of all airports I would expect them to get Star Alliance benefits rolled out in New Delhi and I am happy to report that I received a pleasant Star Alliance Gold experience:

  • Priority check-in with no waiting
  • Moved to excellent seat, 6D, in first row of economy on Air India’s A330-200 with tons of legroom
  • Air India lounge access card given without prompting
  • Priority boarding

Air India DEL Lounge

Air India DEL Lounge Breakfast

Air India A330 Row 6

Upon original boarding there were two people who went straight to first class. By the time we took off, all 24 seats had been filled by people coming up from the back of the plane. Reminds me of the Times of India pieces quoted by View from the Wing in There’s One HUGE Change Air India May Have to Make As it Joins Star Alliance:

Will Air India’s entry into Star Alliance from July 11 finally achieve the impossible: Clamp the brakes on free upgrades that netas, babus, other influential people and their kin have enjoyed for years by buying the cheapest economy tickets but getting ‘bumped’ up to business or first class? Or check the age-old practice of AI employees filling up these seats?

…Now who actually enjoys these benefits — premium full-paying passengers of Star and AI or the used-to-freebies politicians, bureaucrats, the well-connected and their kin or maids — has become a million-dollar question. Almost every day, the aviation ministry gets dozens of letters from everyone who is a someone to get upgraded on AI flights. “All aviation ministers have routinely obliged fellow politicos and the ministry’s bureaucrats have similarly helped fellow babus and their families. Our own staff feels belittled if not accommodated in the premium classes — a section of pilots went on strike on this issue! This needs to be checked now,” said a well-meaning official who has long frowned at these practices but was so far helpless due to reckless ministry interference in all governments till UPA-II. Whether NDA-II proves to be different remains to be seen. (see original Times of India article)

Air India A330 First Class

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  • KJ

    By any chance do you have any idea what kind of baggage allowance they allow for star gold members?

  • Joey

    That’s good to hear you had a pleasant experience. What did you think of the lounge?

    If you have to fly them again, would you try and see whether you can get away with giving yourself a free upgrade to first class? 😉 Enjoy India!

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @KJ – I meant to check and forgot. The good news for carry-ons is I have not had any issues with any of the Indian airlines with large carry-ons and they do not seem to police anyone. For example, this flight I had a US max-size roller board and large briefcase and no one batted an eye.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Joey – lounge was basic but real food. Those with Priority Pass can do better at the Plaza Premium lounge.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Joey – I was thinking I should have put some advance work into how weasel my way into one of those upgrades. Maybe claim to be a Bollywood extra and do a little jig?

  • Sam

    1. I checked AI award availability and there is only one award flight everyday. What if I want 2 award tickets on same day?

    2. Also, can I book award tix within India? Looks like you traveled DEL to BLR.

    3. I have a trip from HYD to ORD via BKK, NRT. I am thinking if I should change my route to AI. Thoughts?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Sam – 1. I have not studied AI award availability, it is so new and I am not sure all sites show it so try several tools like the websites of United, Air Canada, ANA, etc. 2. Domestic should not be a problem, but for standalone tickets compare to revenue tickets since flights in India are really cheap now especially with the exchange rate where it is. Prior to Star Alliance, AI partnered with Lufthansa and Singapore and there were issues booking awards on former ex-Indian Airlines flights like to Lakshadweep. 3. Depends on what airline and flight options you want and are available, I think Air India is fine but it is not luxurious.