Founded: July 1932 (as Tata Airlines)
Commenced operations: 15 October 1932
Hubs: Indira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi), Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai)
Secondary hubs: Chennai International Airport (Chennai), Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (Kolkata)
Focus cities: Bengaluru International Airport (Bangalore), Trivandrum International Airport (Trivandrum), Cochin International Airport (Cochin), Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (Hyderabad), Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport (Ahmedabad)
Airport lounge: Maharaja Lounge
Subsidiaries: Air India Express and Air India Regional
Company slogan: Your Palace in the Sky
Parent company: Air India Limited
Indian Airlines House
Parliament Street, New Delhi
Key people: JRD Tata (Founder), Rohit Nandan (CEO), Syed Nasir Ali (JMD)
Air India is the flag carrier airline of India. It is part of the government owned Air India Limited (AIL). The airline operates a fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft serving Asia, the United States, Europe and now Australia. Its corporate office is located at the Indian Airlines House, in the parliament street of New Delhi. Air India has two major domestic hubs at Indira Gandhi International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The airline formerly operated a hub at Frankfurt Airport which was terminated on account of high costs. However, another international hub is being planned at the Dubai International Airport.
Following economic losses in 2012, Air India has slipped to fourth place in the Indian domestic aviation sector from being the largest operator in the Indian subcontinent, behind low cost carriers like IndiGo, Spicejet, and its full service rival Jet Airways. Following its merger with Indian Airlines, Air India has faced multiple problems, including escalating financial losses, Between September 2007 and May 2011, Air India’s domestic market share declined from 19.2% to 14%, primarily because of stiff competition from private Indian carriers. In August 2011, Air India’s invitation to join Star Alliance was suspended as a result of its failure to meet the minimum standards for the membership. In October 2011, talks between the airline and Star Alliance have resumed. In April 2012, the Indian government granted another bailout package to Air India, including INR300 billion (US$4.6 billion) of subsidies. In order to raise funds for reconstruction, Air India decided to sell and lease back all its dreamliners.
Air India remains as a state-owned company through Air India Limited. However, government ownership of the airline has subsequently led to multiple problems, such as enormous market share losses, declining profits, and escalating labour disputes. Historically, there have been numerous attempts to privatize Air India in hopes of a better future, but political interference has since prevented this goal from being achieved. Furthermore, it is also believed that mismanagement and corruption have impacted Air India’s financial performance.
Tata Sons, a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group) was founded by J. R. D. Tata in 1932. The aviator Nevill Vintcent had an idea to run mail flights from Bombay and Colombo that connected with the Imperial Airways flights from the United Kingdom. He found a supporter for his plans from J. R. D. Tata of the Tata Iron and Steel Company. After three years of negotiations Vintcent and Tata won a contract to carry the mail in April 1932 and in July 1932 the Aviation Department of Tata Sons was formed. On 15 October 1932, J.R.D. Tata flew a single-engined De Havilland Puss Moth carrying air mail (postal mail of Imperial Airways) from Karachi’s Drigh Road Aerodrome to Bombay’s Juhu Airstrip via Ahmedabad. The aircraft continued to Madras via Bellary piloted by Vintcent. Tata Airlines initially consisted of one Puss Moth aircraft, one Leopard Moth, one palm-thatched shed, one whole time pilot assisted by Tata and Vintcent, one part-time engineer and two apprentice-mech. According to The New York Times, Tata Air Mail made a profit of 60,000 rupees its first year, and by 1937, that profit had risen to 600,000 rupees.
Initial service included weekly airmail service with a Puss Moth aircraft between Karachi and Madras via Ahmedabad and Bombay, covering over 1,300 miles. In its very first year of operation, Tata Airlines flew 160,000 miles, carrying 155 passengers and 10.71 ton of mail. In the next few years, Tata Airlines continued to rely for its revenue on the mail contract with the Government of India for carriage of surcharged mail, including a considerable quantity of overseas mail brought to Karachi by Imperial Airways. The same year, Tata Airlines launched its longest domestic flight – Bombay to Trivandrum with a six-seater Miles Merlin. In 1938, it was re-christened as Tata Air Services and later same year was renamed as Tata Airlines. By this time Delhi and Colombo were also serviced.
After World War II, regular commercial service was restored in India, and Tata Airlines became a public limited company on 29 July 1946 under the name Air India. In 1948, after the independence of India, 49% of the airline was acquired by the Government of India, with an option to purchase an additional 2%. In return the airline was granted status to operate international services from India as the designated flag carrier under the name Air India International. On 8 June 1948 a Lockheed Constellation L-749A named Malabar Princess (registered VT-CQP) took off from Bombay bound for London Heathrow via Cairo and Geneva. This was the airline’s first long-haul international flight, soon followed by service in 1950 to Nairobi via Aden. On 25 August 1953 the Government of India exercised its option to purchase a majority stake in the carrier and Air India International Limited was born as one of the fruits of the Air Corporations Act that nationalised the air transportation industry. At the same time all domestic services were transferred to Indian Airlines (now a part of Air India). In 1954, the airline took delivery of its first L-1049 Super Constellations and inaugurated services to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore.
Air India International entered the jet age in 1960 when its first Boeing 707–420, named Gauri Shankar (registered VT-DJJ), was delivered. Jet services to JFK International Airport in New York City via London were inaugurated that same year on 14 May 1960. On 8 June 1962, the airline’s name was officially truncated to Air India. On 11 June 1962, Air India became the world’s first all-jet airline. In 1971, the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 747-200B named Emperor Ashoka (registered VT-EBD). This coincided with the introduction of the ‘Palace In The Sky’ livery and branding. A feature of this livery is the paintwork around each aircraft window, in the cusped arch style of windows in Indian palaces. In 1986 Air India took delivery of the Airbus A310-300; the airline is the largest operator of this type in passenger service. In 1988, Air India took delivery of two Boeing 747–300Ms in mixed passenger-cargo configuration. In 1993, Air India took delivery of the flagship of its fleet when the first Boeing 747-400 named Konark (registered VT-ESM) made history by operating the first non-stop flight between New York City and Delhi. In 1994 the airline was registered as Air India Ltd. In 1996, the airline inaugurated service to its second US gateway at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. In 1999, the airline opened its dedicated Terminal 2-C at the renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.
In 2000, Air India introduced services to Shanghai and to its third U.S. gateway at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. In May 2004, Air India launched a wholly owned low cost airline called Air-India Express. Air India Express connecting cities in India with the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. In 2004 Air India launched flights to its fourth US gateway at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles (which has since been terminated) and expanded its international routes to include flights from Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. On 1 December 2009, Air India introduced services to its fifth U.S. gateway at Washington Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., accessed via a stopover at JFK Airport in New York City. This service to Washington, D.C. has been terminated. In 2001, the Government of India put forward plans on privatising Air India. One of the bids was by a consortium of Tata Group-Singapore Airlines. However the re-privatisation plans were shelved after Singapore Airlines pulled out and the global economy slumped.
Until 2007, Air India and Indian Airlines operated as two completely different airlines, though completely owned by the government of India. Air India mainly operated on International long-haul routes while Indian Airlines operated on domestic and international short-haul routes. Both airlines had different fleet expansion and retirement plans. In 2007, the government decided to bring both the airlines, including Air India Express and Indian Airlines’ low cost subsidiary Alliance Air under the control one body.
The Government of India announced that Air India would be merged with Indian Airlines. As part of the merger process, a new company called the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), now called Air India Limited was established as the holding company for Air India and its subsidiaries. In February 2011, the merger came into effect.
Around 2006–2007, the airlines began showing signs of financial distress. The combined losses for Air India and Indian Airlines in 2006–07 were INR770 crore (US$120 million). After the merger of the airlines, this went up to INR7200 crore (US$1.1 billion) by March 2009. This was followed by restructuring plans which are still in progress. In July 2009, SBI Capital Markets was appointed to prepare a road map for the recovery of the airline. The carrier sold three Airbus A300 and one Boeing 747–300M in March 2009 for $18.75 million to survive the financial crunch. By March 2011, Air India had accumulated a debt of INR42570 crore (US$6.5 billion) and an operating loss of INR22000 crore (US$3.4 billion), and is seeking INR42920 crore (US$6.6 billion) crore from the government. For 3 months (June–August 2011), the carrier missed salary payments and interest payments and Moody’s Investor Service warned that missing payments by Air India to creditors, such as the State Bank of India, will negatively impact the credit ratings of those banks. A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) blamed the decision to buy 111 new planes as one of the major causes of the debt troubles in Air India; in addition it blamed on the ill timed merger with Indian Airlines as well.
On 1 March 2009, Air India had made Frankfurt Airport at Frankfurt am Main as its international hub for onward connections to United States from India; however, the airline shut down the Frankfurt hub on 30 October 2010. However on 14 July 2010, Air India chief, Arvind Jadhav announced their intention to make the new terminal 3 at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport the hub for international and domestic operations with the plans of starting new direct flights to Chicago (USA) and Toronto (Canada) and also taking almost all international long haul flights away from its former Primary hub at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport due to lack of space. This would streamline passenger movements and reduce operating costs. However, service to Toronto was terminated in 2012. The airline also plans to open a new hub for its international flights at UAE’s Dubai International Airport. The new Chairman and Managing director changed the order of some of the 111 planes ordered in 2006 to get narrow-body aircraft instead of the wide-body aircraft.
In January 2013, Air India paid GMR Group a sum of INR415 crore (US$63 million) towards outstanding dues on account of charges related to the airports at Hyderabad and Delhi. Of the amount paid, INR340 crore (US$52 million) was paid to clear the user development fee (UDF), airport development fee (ADF) and landing and parking charges at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. The remaining INR75 crore (US$11 million) was paid to clear similar fees at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. Air India had also shown improvement in its performance as it’s market share had grown to 20.8% from 14% in 2011. 71.7% of all Air India flights were performing on time according to the then Central Minister of State for Civil Aviation, K.C. Venugopal.
The Air India registered office and headquarters is in the Indian Airlines House in New Delhi. Air India has three subsidiaries. Together Air India, Air India Cargo, Air India Express, and Air India Regional form the Air India Limited.
Air India Building: The Air India Building is a 23-storey commercial tower on Marine Drive in Nariman Point, Mumbai, India. The building serves as the corporate headquarters for the airline, Air India. The Air India Building was completed in 1974, and is owned by the airline. It occupies one of Mumbai’s choicest real estate locations in Nariman Point. Located on Marine Drive, facing the Arabian Sea, the building is a landmark on Mumbai’s skyline with the airline’s trademark centaur icon on its top. The centrally air-conditioned building was the first in India to have an escalator, carrying customers from the street-level to the airline’s main booking office. It initially had 30 companies as tenants, now it has only 2.
The building was one of the targets of the 1993 Bombay bombings. A car bomb exploded in the afternoon on 12 March 1993 in the basement garage of the building. Almost 20 people were killed in the attack and the offices of the Bank of Oman just above the garage were destroyed. Security has since been significantly tightened at the building. As of June 2011, the ground floor is occupied by Tata Consultancy Services, Air India occupies 7 floors and 15 floors lie empty. There is at-least 10,800 sq feet of space on each floor. In February 2013, Air India officially vacated the building as part of its asset-monetisation plan, and shifted its corporate office to New Delhi. The Indian Airlines House was chosen as the airline’s new headquarters. However, the airline still retains the 21st, 22nd and 23rd floors at the building.
Air India One: Air India One (also referred to as AI-1 or AIC001) is the call sign of any Air India aircraft carrying the Prime Minister of India, President of India or the Vice President of India. The aircraft are operated as VIP flights by the Indian Air Force (IAF). Air India One mainly operates on one of the five Boeing 747-400s that Air India currently owns, to fly the VIPs overseas. Apart from that, the Embraer 135 and customized Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) are also used.
Air India Cargo
In 1954, Air India Cargo started its freighter operations with a Douglas DC-3 Dakota aircraft, giving Air India the distinction of being the first Asian airline to operate freighters. The airline operates cargo flights to many destinations. The airline also has ground truck-transportation arrangements on select destinations. A member of IATA, Air India carries all types of cargo including dangerous goods (hazardous materials) and live animals, provided such shipments are tendered according to IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and IATA Live Animals Regulations. At the warehouse in Mumbai, Air India has developed a system of inventory management for cargo handling of import/export functions. This takes care of the entire management of cargo, supports Electronic Data Interface (EDI) messages with Indian Customs and replaces to a great extent existing paper correspondence between Customs, airlines, and the custodians. This also replaces manual handling and binning of cargo at the warehouse in Mumbai by Air India.
Air India Regional
Air India Regional was started as a low-cost arm of Indian as Alliance Air As part of Indian’s merger with Air India, it was renamed Air India Regional. It operates 357 weekly flights to 25 domestic destinations as a subsidiary of Air India. Its main hub is Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. As Alliance Air, the airline operated a fleet of 12 Boeing 737-200 aircraft. All these aircraft were phased out post the merger. Air India Regional now operates a mixed fleet of ATR 42-300 and Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft.
Air India Express
Air India Express is the airline’s low-cost subsidiary headquartered in Mumbai, operating mainly from Indian state of Kerala. It operates services mainly to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The airline belongs to Air India Charters Limited, a whole owned subsidiary of Air India Limited. Today Air India Express operates nearly 100 flights per week, mainly from southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India. Air India Express operates flights from airports in Kerala, Punjab and Mangalore to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Muscat and Salalah in the Middle East and Singapore in the east. The airline was established in May 2004, after a long demand from Malayalee expatriate communities living in Middle East.
Air India Branding:
Air India football club
Air India FC is an Indian professional football club founded in 1952, based in Mumbai, which currently plays in the I-League. They are sponsored by the airline and have enjoyed some success in the Mumbai Football League. Founded in 1952, Air India Football Club is one of the oldest institutional sides in the country. Though never considered as frontrunners in the I-League, the Mumbai based club has often proved to be a thorn in the flesh for many top sides. They used to play in NFL 2nd Division and got promoted to Premier Division where they have maintained their position there till now. Generally a low budget side, Air India’s best finish in the National Football League (now I-League) came in the 1997-1998 season when they were placed sixth in the table and their coach Bimal Ghosh received the Best coach award. Former India international players Godfrey Pereira and Anthony Fernandez are the coach and assistant coach of the team. Four times champions in the local league in Mumbai, Air India are best known for nurturing youngsters into big time players. Many of these boys have played with distinction for bigger teams in the later years. In February 2013, Hockey India derecognised Air India as its associate member with immediate effect due to non-payment of membership fee. NDTV reported that despite repeated reminders Air India has not paid its annual membership fee since 2010-2011.
Air India cricket teams
Air India sponsors two cricket teams, namely Air India Blue and Air India Red. Both teams have constantly participated in the BCCI Corporate Trophy, with Air India Red being the most successful, and the inaugural winner, with Air India blue being the runner-up. Air India Blue were also the losing semi-finalists of the tournament in 2010, while they won the tournament in 2011 beating State Bank of Hyderabad by just 1 wicket in the finals.
Air India Air Transport Services
Air India Air Transport Services Limited (AIATSL) is a Public Sector Undertaking of the Government of India. AIATSL is a subsidiary of Air India and is headquartered in Mumbai, India. The company provides ground handling services (cargo, passenger, baggage) at various airports in India. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the company was Captain Gustav Baldauf. Captain Gustav Baldauf resigned as COO of AIATSL during February 2011 citing his remarks against the government of India. The Company has authorised Share Capital of Rs.500 crores divided into 42,56,36,820 Equity Shares of Rs.10/- and 74,36,318 Redeemable Prefrerence Shares of Rs.100/- each and present paid-up capital comprises 15,38,36,427 fully paid equity shares of Rs.10/- each amounting to Rs.153.84 Crores. Air India Air Transport Services reportedly employs all the staff on Contract basis.
Air India Charters Limited
Air India Charters Limited (AICL) is another Public Sector Undertaking of the Government of India. Headquartered in Mumbai, India, this subsidiary of Air India operates low cost carrier Air India Express from India to the Gulf and Southeast Asia. AICL operates flights from airports in Kerala, Punjab and Mangalore to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Muscat and Salalah in the Middle East and Singapore in the east. AICL has charters flying throughout India. It works with other charter companies including Vibha Lifesavers for air ambulance and Hi Flying aviation for its general charters in India.
Air India Destinations:
Air India serves 59 domestic destinations and 31 international destinations in 19 countries across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.
Air India’s short-haul routes mainly include domestic cities and cities in South East Asia and South West Asia. For short-haul routes Airbus A320 family are used. The Boeing 787 aircraft was introduced on selected domestic routes on 19 September 2012.
The airline has long-haul destinations in East Asia, North America, and Europe which are served using Boeing 777-200LR and -300ER aircraft. The Boeing 787 aircraft was introduced on long-haul routes on 15 October 2012. However, Toronto was terminated as a destination in 2012, utilizing Newark Liberty International Airport and JFK International Airport, both in the New York City Metropolitan Area, as viable gateways both to the eastern United States as well as Canada. In 2013 the airline announced plans to launch new long haul flights to Rome, Milan, Moscow, Birmingham, Melbourne and Sydney with the 787’s.
Air India has codesharing agreements with the following airlines (as of June 2013):
- Air Canada
- Air Mauritius
- Asiana Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- Ethiopian Airlines
- Kuwait Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- SriLankan Airlines
- Swiss International Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
Air India Awards and recognitions:
- Preferred International Airline award for travel and hospitality from Awaz Consumer Awards 2006
- Best International West Bound Airline out of India for three successive years by Galileo Express TravelWorld Award
- Best Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative. by Galileo Express TravelWorld Award
- Best Short-Haul International Airline by Galileo Express TravelWorld Award 2008
- The Mercury Award for the years 1994 and 2003, from the International Flight Catering Association, for finest in-flight catering services.
- Amity Corporate Excellence Award instituted by the Amity International Business School, Noida, Uttar Pradesh to honour Corporates with distinct vision, innovation, competitiveness and sustenance.
- Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Award
- Dun and Bradstreet Award(D&B)- first in terms of revenue out of the top airline companies out of India
- Best South Asian Airline award by readers of TTG Asia, TTG China, TTG Mice and TTG-BT Mice China, all renowned Mice and business travel publications.
- Cargo Airline of the Year at the 26th Cargo Airline of the Year Awards
- The airline entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a civil airliner. Over 111,000 people were evacuated from Amman to Mumbai – a distance of 4,117 km, by operating 488 flights in association with Indian, from 13 August to 11 October 1990 – lasting 59 days. The operation was carried out during Persian Gulf War in 1990 to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait and Iraq.
- The Montreal Protocol Public Awareness Award was awarded to Air India by the United Nations for environmental protection, especially in the ozone layer.
- World’s first all-jet airline- June 1962
- World’s largest operator of Airbus A310-300
- Air India’s security department became the first aviation security organisation in the world to acquire ISO 9002 certification (31 January 2001).
- Air India’s Department of Engineering has obtained the ISO 9002 for its Engineering facilities for meeting international standards.
- Fifth airline in the world to receive the Boeing 787