One-on-One with Markus Ruediger, Star Alliance, Media Relations Director

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  1. [​IMG]In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Markus Ruediger, Director of Media Relations at Star Alliance, about the global reach and perks that airline alliances, such as Star Alliance, bring to air travelers.

    With 27 participating air carriers, the Star Alliance Network brings together networks, lounge access, check-in services, ticketing and dozens of other services to improve the travel experience for customers, wherever they are in the world.

    Star Alliance member airlines fly to more destinations than any other airline alliance in the world – which means easier travel and quicker connections. Airline members are conveniently located closer together in airports and “connection teams” are installed for faster transfers and smooth traveling. Common airport facilities, coordinating schedules and a range of new technologies are frequently shared among Alliance members..

    “Alliances in the travel industry will continue to exist for the simple reason that no single airline or entity could possibly offer the expanded benefits enjoyed through a network.”

    – Markus Ruediger, Director Media Relations, Star Alliance

    What are some of the recent changes/improvements that have occurred within the Star Alliance and what distinct value does the network bring to travelers as compared to oneworld and SkyTeam?

    2014 saw a variety of developments at Star Alliance. In terms of network, we welcomed Air India in July, improving access to one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world.

    The highlight of this year was no doubt the completion of a major airport infrastructure, London Heathrow’s Terminal 2 – the Queen’s Terminal – our new home at Britain’s premier hub. The combination of a state-of-the art terminal and having all member carriers located in the same building, has vastly improved our customer proposition.

    During the course of this year we also made further investments in our Star Alliance branded lounges. The Paris – CDG lounge was refurbished and in addition to providing more space, it now sports many of our new design features, while having a Parisian flair. At Sao Paulo Guarulhos Airport we opened a new lounge which was designed by Brazilian architects and features mainly materials from Brazil.

    Many non-alliance airlines, like Emirates, Jet Blue and Alaska, partner with airlines across alliances for miles earning and redemption. How does that affect the strength of the alliances?

    In terms of member airlines and number of flights and destinations, Star Alliance has by far the most comprehensive Frequent Flyer Program (FFP) proposition. In principle, customers can collect and redeem miles across the entire alliance network and build status in their selected FFPs at the same time. In addition to this, some of our member carriers have individual FFP relationships with airlines outside the Alliance, mainly covering additional routes or regions. While collecting and redeeming might be possible, status miles will not be offered in these cases.

    Will the future of alliances remain consistent with the way they are setup now or will they evolve into more joint ventures, such as the AA/BA/IB or AF/KLM teaming? Do you see any joint ventures in Star Alliance’s future?

    The alliance model will continue to exist for the simple reason that no single joint-venture can offer the same network reach of an alliance. What we are seeing is that member carriers will enter into bilateral joint ventures where it makes commercial sense and the appropriate regulatory approval can be obtained. Recent examples within Star Alliance include Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines or Air Canada and Air China.

    What are some of the interesting – positive and negative – trends you are observing among airline carriers and how do those trends differ across global regions, including US, Latin America, Europe and Asia?

    We are seeing various trends at present. With regard to onboard services, most carriers are continuing cabin upgrades in order to provide fully lie-flat seats in Business Class and more carriers introducing a cabin product between Business and Economy. In the field of FFPs, the idea of closely linking the revenue of a ticket to the mileage earned, is continuing. Airlines are also incorporating modern technology to simplify travel so passengers can download boarding passes onto their mobile devices. Along the same lines, Star Alliance has recently agreed to a joint format for 2D barcodes used for electronic FFP cards which more airlines are planning to introduce.

    Can you clarify for our readers how partner redemption benefits work? As an example, if one is a United Airlines’ frequent flier with elite program status and wishes to fly Avianca to Peru, will Avianca, as a Star Alliance member, offer the traveler the same level of rewards and amenities as United?

    The redemption process is a rather simple one. Your point of contact is always the FFP which you are redeeming from and that airline can book and ticket travel on any of the Star Alliance member airlines. Like with any other travel, the passenger can make use of all the Star Alliance Gold benefits including dedicated check-in, increased baggage allowance, lounge access (more than 1,000 around the globe), priority boarding and priority baggage delivery.

    What are some tips or useful information that air travelers should heed when they fly on different carriers in the same alliance? How can they leverage that to their maximum advantage?

    In principle, travel on several member airlines is simple and straight forward due to the standardized benefits which are available across the alliance; through check-in from airport of origin through to your final destination; collecting miles on all member airlines, and the alliance wide lounge access policy.

    One useful tip is to always provide Frequent Flyer Number at time of your reservation and confirm that the information is on your boarding pass. In case it is not there, ask the agent to recheck. This is especially important for our Gold Customers, as this identifies them as special customers on all our member carriers and gives them access to their status benefits such as extra baggage allowance, lounge access, priority boarding, and baggage delivery.

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