The credit for establishing Air India goes to J.R.D. Tata, when Tata Airlines took birth in July 1932 and started operations from the Juhu aerodrome out of a shack with one pilot, two technicians and two piston-engine aircrafts, namely Puss Moth and Leopard Moth.? However, due to the World War II that raged from 1939 to 1945, their operations were hampered.
After World War II, the Tata Airlines began its regular commercial flights and on 29th July 1946, Tata Airlines became a public limited company and changed its name to Air India.? In 1948, the Government of India took control of 49% of its shares in Air India with an option of buying another 2% of the shares to take complete control of the airlines.? In return, the airlines would run under the name of Air India International and would operate internationally.? In June 1962, the airlines name was shortened to Air India and it became the first airlines in the world to operate an all-jet fleet.
Under Tatas, Air India was considered amongst the top airlines in the world and had they, and not the Government of India, been operating this airlines, then today it would have been a success story with at least 200 to 250 aircraft in its fleet operating in India and internationally.? It is very hard to understand why the Government had to take over Air India and mismanage it to such an extent that it constantly faces labour problems, incurs huge losses and? has to be kept afloat with with taxpayers? money.
Air India is a stereo-typical Government-run entity with all the negatives of public bodies present.? The Civil Aviation Ministers, who have ran or run these Organisations, have been allotted these portfolios, not because they had any special talents to run an airline, but because they were the members of the ruling dispensation or its valued coalition partners, and they got this coveted job due to quid pro quos or due to pressure tactics.? Most politicians are corrupt and, therefore, it is convenient to assume that the Ministers of Civil Aviation are also the same. Sometime back it had appeared in news reports that one of the Minister’s of Civil Aviation?s daughter’s was ordering the airlines to take her, her friends and other officials to various destinations where the IPL matches were being played. Quite ridiculous.
Over the decades, billions of taxpayers? money has been squandered on the airline, all because the airline was not managed efficiently and consequently to prevent its untimely demise.? Why is the Government as stubborn as a mule in running Air India, when they are incapable of running it and? it incurs huge and mounting losses due to political and bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption, all round mismanagement, a workforce that is unionized and, over the years, has gone on strike on various pretexts with total disregard to the problems faced by the public?
The answer is simple.? By having Air India as a public sector undertaking, the Ministers, politicians and bureaucrats can get free air tickets and other facilities as if it is no one?s business, under the pretext of travelling on official work.? Ultimately, nothing goes out of their pockets, as all expenses are borne by the taxpayers and they have no say in the matter.? Once elected, these politicians are masters and no one can touch them.
If a passenger has travelled by other Airlines, then they should travel by Air India to get an experience (more like an odyssey) that? they will not want to repeat, and to judge for themselves the kind of airline it is compared whats on offer from the other airlines operating in the country.
Firstly, the ground personnel are not passenger friendly, but rude and discourteous.? They are totally inefficient, they do not work to enhance the prestige of the airlines and they have a feeling that they are doing a favour to the passengers, rather than a service for which they are well paid.? Secondly, when you enter an aircraft, it is old and and unclean.? The Cabin crew or the cabin do not give you the sense of comfort or safety that you crave on a long international flight. The crew do not have an age limit for flight duties and this affects the cabin atmosphere. The seats too are very? uncomfortable require modification.
On one of my travels by Air India on one of their gulf routes, I had occasion to observe the partiality shown by an Air India Hostess to a passenger.? This passenger, possibly a marketing professional showered her with his company’s complimentary gifts in return for special treatment aboard the flight and a possible post flight relationship. Indeed he was plied with extra drinks and snacks in comparison to others. These sort of services drive customers away from air India into the arms of the waiting private airlines, adding to its financial woes.
It is high time that the Government cedes Air India and hands it over to a reputed private Organisation, preferably the Tatas, who can bring about a turnaround and transform it into one of the best airlines in the world.? This is only possible, if Indians band together and force the Government to listen to them and tell them in clear and certain terms that they have no right in squandering taxpayers? money and that should privatise this airline.
Nelson Lewis, Bahrain
Author: Nelson Edward Lewis