Air India’s Comeback: Burdened By Losses to New Uniforms

Air India, once burdened by losses and debt funded by taxpayers, is undergoing a comprehensive transformation to evolve into a globally recognized airline rooted in Indian values.

Air India on Tuesday revealed its fresh line of uniforms crafted by designer Manish Malhotra, designed for both the cabin and cockpit crew.

“Crafted by Indian celebrity couturier, Manish Malhotra, in his Mumbai atelier, the new uniforms feature an array of colors and timeless designs. The collection mirrors a rare, harmonious blend of rich Indian heritage and aesthetics with 21st-century style, elegance, and comfort,” said the airline in a press release.

Air India plans to roll out its new uniforms gradually over the next few months, debuting alongside the arrival of the airline’s initial Airbus A350. The color scheme, featuring deep reds, burgundies, and gold accents, aims to honor India’s diverse cultural legacy. The airline and the designer collaborated closely with cabin crew representatives and the in-flight Services team to develop these designs, conducting thorough testing before finalizing the new uniforms.

Air India: Background

Before COVID-19 hit, Air India was in dire straits as a government-owned entity. The airline faced multiple issues including neglected cabin interiors, instances of executives embezzling funds, crew favoritism in upgrades, and overall poor service. This led to a significant financial burden on the government and a reputation that made passengers actively avoid the airline.

After merging with Indian Airlines, Air India needed considerable time to streamline its technological infrastructure before becoming part of the Star Alliance. Despite this, the airline held a significant market presence and a global platform. Recently, the airline underwent privatization.

To prepare for expansion as the national carrier in a country expected to surpass China in size, they made one of the most substantial aircraft orders ever. This move aimed to rejuvenate their fleet. Additionally, they’re enhancing their cabins as part of this upgrade process.

Tata Airlines to Air India, Now Back in Tata’s Hands

Tata Airlines

The airline traces its roots back to 1932 when J. R. D. Tata founded Tata Airlines. Starting with a single-engine de Havilland Puss Moth, it initially carried air mail from Karachi to Bombay and Madras (now Chennai).

After World War II, it transitioned into a public limited company and was rebranded as Air India. Notably, in 1960, it acquired its first jet aircraft, a Boeing 707 named Gauri Shankar, becoming the first Asian airline to do so.

Attempts to privatize the airline were made in 2000, and losses followed its merger with Indian Airlines in 2006. Finally, in 2022, the airline and its properties returned to Tata ownership after a privatization attempt initiated in 2017.

Air India now extends its services to domestic and Asian destinations via its subsidiary, Air India Express. The airline is recognized by its mascot, the Maharajah (Emperor), and previously featured a logo showcasing a flying swan with the Konark wheel. However, in 2023, they introduced a new logo inspired by the Jharokha window pattern, replacing the former emblem.

Air India Almost Doomed: Struggles & Growth

Since its merger with Indian Airlines in 2007, Air India consistently faced financial losses, relying on taxpayer-funded bailouts to sustain operations.

The government revealed daily losses of around $2.6 million attributed to running the airline. Management attributed the financial decline to escalating aviation fuel prices, high airport usage charges, intensified competition from low-cost carriers, a weakening rupee, and substantial interest burdens.

According to Jitender Bhargava, a former executive director of Air India, the airline faced challenges due to inconsistent service standards, low aircraft utilization, poor on-time performance, outdated productivity norms, limited revenue generation capabilities, and an unsatisfactory public image.

Tata Group acquired Air India in January last year and has since implemented strategies to revitalize the airline’s performance.

This includes a significant order for 470 planes and an emphasis on expanding international operations. The conglomerate oversees multiple airlines, such as Air India, Air India Express, AIX Connect, and Vistara (a joint venture with Singapore Airlines).

The carrier is focused on enlarging its fleet and route network, enhancing customer offerings, and bolstering operational dependability. CEO Campbell Wilson compares this revival to a prolonged Test match rather than a quick T20 game.

SOURCE: Air India’s Comeback: Burdened By Losses to New Uniforms