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
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
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
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
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.