AviationFormer owners are back with focus on ‘image, attitude and perception’ of debt-riddled carrier.

It’s hello and Tata as Air India readies for change

Air India's Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner plane.
Air India's Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner plane. Photo Credit: Flickr/Colin Cooke Photo

When the last champagne cork has popped, the hard work will start for Air India’s new owners, Tata Group, as it seeks to manage the US$2 million of debt that it has taken on to acquire the airline from the Indian government.

Tata Group owned the airline before it was nationalised in 1953 and now its leaders have the formidable task of nursing Air India back to something approaching good health.

The conglomerate, whose interests span steel, automobiles (Jaguar, Land Rover), beverages (Tetley Tea), hospitality and more, sealed the deal with a US$2.4 billion debt and equity arrangement with the Indian government

Tata also gains budget carrier Air India Express as part of the deal.

Early indications are that Tata will focus on improving Air India’s “image, attitude and perception” with customers before embarking on efficiency gains, which are likely to include cuts to Air India’s 10,000 staff and a reappraisal of its mostly ageing fleet of around 120 aircraft.

The airline has already started work on improving meal services across international and domestic sectors and has directed crew not to wait for dawdling passengers by closing aircraft doors 20 minutes before take-off.

Tata will also begin a search for a new airline boss, although one of those rumoured to be in line for the job, ex British Airways chief Alex Cruz, has distanced himself from the role.

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