Legacy issues, including the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines, remain difficult to resolve. It has, in the face of stiff competition, both domestically and also internationally, done well. An international agency recently called it the third worst airline globally, a distinction totally motivated and uncalled for.
There is widespread appreciation among industry and consumers that services on Air India have improved considerably in the last one year.
It’s a notable turnaround from where it was, not an easy task, considering how badly the airline had run into all round losses and despair. There are numerous legacy issues, but with the oil prices on its side, and a determined new team, it has strategically weathered the rough storms. Therefore, it was shocking to read how the national carrier had been singled out as the third worst airline in the world!
Surely, it had been sour grapes somewhere, for the airline to be meted out this dubious distinction, most uncalled for.
Speaking to TF, industry insiders have called the report an exaggeration. Subhash Goyal, Chairman, STIC Travel called Air India a “fast changing entity” which was coming back to its original glory “and if this momentum is kept, I am sure under the able leadership of Ashwani Lohani, it could become one of the best airlines in the world,” he said. He added that the taste of any pudding was in its eating, stating that most people that he had come across, who had flown Air India recently, were all “in praise for the service and its brand-new planes.”
“If this was not the case, then Air India & Air India Express would not have made operating profits of over hundred crores,” he argued.
Suggesting a way forward, Subhash Goyal noted that “perhaps if the management of the airline is given more autonomous control on marketing and operations, Air India will definitely be amongst the ten top most airlines of the world.”
While Kapil Kaul, CEO and Director, CAPA – South Asia believed that the FlightStats data on Air India’s on-time performance was “an exaggeration and did not corroborate with DGCA data for ex-India flights…….(he argued) for an aggressive expansion plan in place, with focus on fundamentals like on-time and schedule integrity is key to recovery,” he said. He added “Air India needs a new business plan which is fully capitalised as market conditions from FY 18 will be very challenging.”
Ashwini Kakkar, Executive Vice Chairman and Director, Mercury Travels said that, over the last couple of years, Air India had made steady progress in its endeavours, beginning with the process of completing all the checks and formalities and becoming a full-fledged member of Star Alliance.
“They have embarked on a substantial fleet renewal and enhancement program including the induction of Dreamliners. The in-flight service, which was “Dil Se” continues in the same vein and the airline continues to add direct connectivity to new global destinations and to introduce new interesting schemes which benefit the customer,” he said. He further noted that “there is certainly some room for improvement in on-time performance, profitability, communications etc. but with Lohani at the helm, it is making strides in the right direction.”
Air India may still have miles to go, but given determination, specially from its large work force, could get there.