Star Alliance opened its passenger and baggage expedite service at Toronto Pearson International Airport last month, bringing personalized and streamlined transfer handling to passengers with tight connections between two Star Alliance member airline flights to its fifth network hub.

Branded as Star Alliance Connection Service, the program launched at Chicago O’Hare International Airport in 2017 and has since expanded to Star Alliance hubs at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and Germany’s Frankfurt and Munich airports.

Toronto Pearson is a hub for 13 Star Alliance member airlines, including Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines and Chicago-based United Airlines.

At each of its connection centers, the alliance maintains a dedicated connection service staff that uses special software to monitor the transfer window for customers with onward flights. The software recognizes cases where passengers and checked bags appear in danger of missing a connection, which are automatically highlighted. Before the flight lands, the connection service agent assesses the various options available to assist the customer toward reaching the onward flight in time, or if necessary, book alternate travel arrangements.

Star Alliance is ramping-up marketing for the connection service; the Frankfurt-based global alliance has made efforts in recent years to increase customer awareness of its benefits, which reach across its 28 airline members.

“We have a brand and we have built a very strong proposition, but like any other business we have to adapt to a changing environment and landscape,” Star CEO Jeffrey Goh said at events commemorating the alliance’s 20th anniversary last year. “We want to be much more focused on our customer proposition … airline customers expect their journey to be seamless and to travel trouble-free. So we have launched a technology solution for our members to assist their passengers when there is a disruption or irregularity that allows for a simpler re-booking process.”

The alliance has been operating connection centers for over a decade, primarily focused on baggage expedite service; 11 Star Alliance hubs are now equipped with connection centers. In addition to the five centers now handling both passenger and baggage expedite services, baggage connection programs are offered at Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Washington Dulles and London Heathrow.

“With connection service now available in Toronto … more passengers with tight connections can make their onward flight, thereby improving the travel experience at one of our main hubs in North America,” Star Alliance VP-customer experience Christian Draeger said. “We are presently working on the expansion of this service to more key hubs in our network.”

Mark Nensel