Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines has taken its first step towards full membership of the airline alliance Oneworld.
Kingfisher has signed a memorandum of understanding with the alliance and today (February 23) applied to India's Ministry of Civil Aviation to be given authority to proceed with its membership.
Once this approval has been granted, Oneworld will confirm the likely date of the joining ceremony, a process which usually takes around 18 months.
Kingfisher Airlines joining Oneworld will add 58 cities in India to the alliance's route network, expanding the total number of destinations to 800.
Kingfisher Airlines' chairman and CEO Vijay Mallya said joining Oneworld will "strengthen us financially, through revenues from passengers transferring to our network from our Oneworld partners and the cost reduction opportunities the alliance offers.
"Kingfisher Airlines is proud to be lining up to join the world's leading quality global airline alliance.
"It will enable us to offer our guests a truly global network served by partners who include some of the best known and most admired airlines in the world, with frequent flyer benefits extended throughout this network."
British Airways (BA) will be Kingfisher's Oneworld sponsor. Willie Walsh, CEO of BA, said: "Kingfisher Airlines is an ideal fit for Oneworld. It has a strong focus on customer service and its network expands what the alliance currently offers.
"Oneworld's priority is the quality rather than quantity of our member airlines, which is why British Airways is delighted to be developing our relationship with Kingfisher Airlines further by acting as its sponsor into the alliance."
After Kingfisher joins, Oneworld will have a combined fleet of 2,350 aircraft operating some 9,000 flights a day and carrying some 340 million passengers a year.
Kingfisher launched in the domestic market in 2005 and launched its first international routes in September 2008. It now flies to 70 destinations worldwide (63 of them in India) with a fleet of 66 aircraft, with an average age of five years.
Existing Oneworld members are:American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malév Hungarian Airlines, Mexicana, Qantas and Royal Jordanian, and around 20 affiliates including American Eagle, Dragonair, LAN Argentina, LAN Ecuador and LAN Peru. Russia's S7 Airlines will join the alliance later this year.