What’s wrong with Air India? Everything is..

Tragedy strikes India with the air crash yesterday that killed 156 passengers on board. It will be a while before the real reasons for the crash emerge. Taking moral responsibility by the civil aviation Minister is not going to solve the continuing problems that Air India faces. Cash crunch by far remains Air India’s biggest woe. Financial burdens in turn burden the crew who do not get breaks between short-haul international flights ( 4 / 5 hours ) as they prepare for the return flight and by then have worked for twelve hours or so without a break. I cannot drive a car for twelve hours without falling asleep on the steering wheel, how does one keep alert in a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A 330 carrying the life of two hundred odd passengers on board for twelve hours?No amount of compensation that AI or the Government offers will bring back lost lives. An error of devastating proportions such as yesterday should never occur in the first place. Whether it was a problem with the short runway in Mangalore, the ATC , the pilot or the plane, there is rarely a second chance when it comes to air travel. Those who survived yesterday’s crash may never want to fly again, unfortunately people like us have to. I have become a nervous flyer lately. A turbulent flight between Bangalore and Singapore last night made me realize how things can go dastardly wrong in a few seconds, thirty thousand feet up in the air, with the top and the bottom bearing the same black, endless hue, all our lives were in the hands of the Pilot and God of course.  However, there was one reassuring factor which made me confident that the passengers were in safe hands. We were flying Singapore Airlines. Air turbulence is a regular feature, but thinking about the recent incident involving an Emirates flight from Dubai to Thiruvanthapuram that plunged 15,000 feet as it got caught in an air pocket is certainly not helpful. This would have been a free fall of a lifetime.Not to forget, no one as yet knows the real reason for the Air France Airbus A330 crash in the Atlantic as it flew into a thunderstorm.Honestly, if it were an Air India flight, I am not sure what state I would have been!Four crashes in the last few weeks across the globe in rather rapid succession is not a reassuring thought for frequent flyers. I am reposting an article I had done on AI a few weeks back.

Whenever I think of Air India, the Maharaja fails to appear , but a big oaf like man who could pass off as the court jester does. I hum the famous Maria soundtrack from the movie ” Sound of Music” when the nuns got together to sing about the troublemaker Maria, here we sing about the troubled Airlines and it goes something like this – 

How do you solve a problem like Air India?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Air India?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown

For my heightened sense of patriotism the ideal airlines I should be flying must be AI, but it has been a good long time since I sat in one. The reasons for not flying it far outweighs the reasons why I should. Here are some of the reasons with a link back to the original article.

It takes a little over five hours to reach Chennai from Hong Kong on a Cathay flight and seven hours to reach Chennai on an Air India flight from Mumbai due to a problem with the air conditioning  click here for details

A family of three hitch hike on an AI flight and occupy the jump seat next to the driver..err Pilot. click here for details

A snake was spotted on an AI plane but gave the crew the slip and slithered into a vent, not to be found again. click here for details

The pilot was asleep, not in his bedroom but in a plane full of two hundred passengers he was piloting, the AI flight overshot Mumbai where it was to land and the dozing pilot was woken up by the ATC. click here for details

An AI plane pulls back with the aero bridge still attached to it at the Mumbai airport. Click here for details

There are many more incidents that I could add but I think by now the picture is rather clear. The above reasons are not the only reasons why passengers are reluctant to fly AI which has resulted in staggering losses to the tune of 7,500 crores INR by March 2009 post merger with Indian Airlines in 2007. Poor service in the air, dissatisfactory service on the ground has resulted in more and more Indian passengers shying away from the national carrier.Delays also add to the existing woes. AI holds the third position in the domestic market share after Jet and Kingfisher and if drastic measures are not taken by the Government in the near future, AI will nosedive further. Presently AI is looking for a bail out from the Government and an advisory board of prominent industrialists are trying to put the airlines back on auto pilot and get it to cruise smoothly. A tall task to cut back losses, the easier way has been to cut costs rather than generate more revenues. As a result orders with Boeing have been cut back and other restructuring plans are taking place.

Other than the obviously glaring issues there are subtle issues which would need to be amended. One being the graciousness of the air hostesses themselves, very seldom have I travelled in an AI flight where the hostesses are pleasant. I recall a friends’ narration when he was traveling business class that the hostess was yelling at the top of her voice the dinner menu simply as ” MUTTON / CHICKEN ” with an authority that even Hitler would have shuddered at. Frankly, as a passenger one seldom notices what is happening behind the scenes or for that matter inside the cockpit but it would be important to get their acts spruced up in matters that stare at the passengers faces. A bit of fluff can go a long way in building passenger loyalty.

It is not a good feeling to amble on about the airlines that was once the Maharaja of the Indian skies and I sincerely hope that AI does not crash land and break into pieces. The founder Mr JRD Tata would not have anticipated a short haul flight as he flew it to the skies. The Government needs to kick start the dying engines and privatization once again may be considered.A hijack attempt by a foreign entity may dent the pride initially but if this is the only way that the Maharaja can get back his regal status, so be it.

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121 Responses to “What’s wrong with Air India? Everything is..”

  1. A crisp and witty write up.great one.

  2. Well, everyone is aware of the pathetic state AI is currently in. Your article just outlines that. It’s no doubt unfortunate to see the airline going downhill and we can only wish things get better without bringing in a private entity. The actual issues need to be addressed. I fail to understand why can’t the current employees work with the same efficiency as other employees of the private sector? I wish I was wrong, but the problem is with the attitude people have when they are working for a “secured” Government job. No one can hold them accountable as the threat of the unions loom over the management. Too many people are employeed within the airline too and it is difficult to get rid of them without valid reasons. I had read it somewhere that AI have about 230 employees per aircraft while the numbers are about half when compared to other airlines. Most importantly employees need to perform in a professional way. Best example would be Singapore airlines, also run by the Government. How difficult can it be to learn from them the professional ways to run an airline. Well… this can go on and on. In a nutshell, the main reason for the decline is that the airline should be stopped from running like just another Government department. Just my 2 cents 🙂

  3. Deepan – Thanks for your comment. I agree,in India practically every PSU is loss making and the Airline industry is also as bureaucratic as the rest. Singapore Airlines is outstanding as a result of efficiencies and more so the discipline that the country follows in every service. IMHO, I would prefer privatization as it is virtually impossible (unless there is a miracle) that it can be revived under it’s current structure.

  4. Sharmila, well then privatisation cannot be the solution to every government run company. If the private sector can do, a govt owned company should be able to do it as well. It would be a shame if AI goes in private hands.
    What is lacking is the commitment and a will to make a difference and change for better. What the airline needs is a good doctor, and the existing bureaucrats who are only good at pushing files from one table to anbother need to get out.
    Someone from the govt, may be the PM should take on personal responsibility and revamp the whole management. If Indian Railways can reach a stage where it is making profits, so can AI. What needs is better management. It is as simple as that; hire professionals to do the job rather than selling it to professionals and them letting them do the job. I think AI can come back on track without being privatised. What’s needed is some tough decisions, change of management by hiring professional and capable people and zero interference from bureaucrats and unions. Being an optimistic that I am, Where there is a will there is a way and sadly the people in the management today lack the most important factor – “Will”

    • Indian Railways made only book profits which was a result of accounting standards being changed at that time, most of the profits were a result of reserves from the balance sheet that were released to the earnings statement, besides items like pension funds were included in the profit figures which were later reversed out. Profit was not a result of increased ticket sales.

      I agree with –

      Change of management and I also agree that WILL is lacking in every thing that gets done for public service. Govt officials think they are doing us a favor every time we approach them, from top to down. Needs to start from the very top, I think the PM should be a lot tougher in his stand, an iron hand is needed to punch most of the politicians and government officials. However the PM remains a puppet of the Italian mafia!

      • Well, will leave the Railways aside for now as that could easily be a separate blog altogether.

        Glad we agree on what the main issues are and the possible solutions to resolve them…

  5. Deepan – Blogging about Laloo will be more interesting than Railways..ha ha

  6. Cool… Look forward to reading about it then!

  7. Sharmila, lack of professionalism is the bane of all PSUs. The Government must limit the services of the bureaucracy to only their ministries and agencies, and leave the running of businesses to competent professionals.

    • Melwyn – For professionalism to come into the PSUs, they would need to hire some well educated people and it comes at a price, the sooner the Govt realizes this the better, but I doubt if it will ever happen.

      • Well it doesnt come with a price. Though the salaries of Govt officials might be less, other benefits get them to par with what is paid in the private sector. And I believe, putting in extra hours before or after your rostered time of work, is unheard of in the Govt sector.

  8. Deepan – I do not think it is important to always work beyond one’s roster hours to get the job done. They can get the job done within the scheduled time if all of them are efficient. Secondly, how many of us would really think about a Govt job just because it is a steady job, the benefits may be there but the perception is not. To improve the perception, more advertising about the benefits needs to happen, which seldom does. It is ok to pass perks to people who deserve to be benefited, but do they really deserve to in this sector? No, thats why they need to be whipped into getting more efficient first and it can happen only if they get people like Nandan Nilekhani and his likes who have taken a bold step to work for the Govt even if it is a pilot project at the outset. We need more professional people like Nandan on top of the chain who can effect the ones below and make them more “professional”. And I do not think Nandan comes at a cheap price, they would have to pay him a bit to be there.

    • Sharmila, my reply was just with regards to your comment about professioanl people coming at a price. What I meant to say is that the additional benefits that the Govt jobs enjoy, does actually make them a better paid job and is hardly any different comapred to private sectors.
      I am not denying the fact that more talented people are needed in Govt owned companies.

      • Deepan – Thanks, you are right in stating the Govt benefits is comparable, but I think many are not aware of the same. Thats why I was suggesting that advertising the benefits may help. Good thing is we agree on most points!

  9. Well, that would also send out a wrong signal to people and might not attract the right people for the job. A candidate who applies needs to be motivated more by the job description than the benefits that the job carries. Well, that is my perception. For me the job I do is more important than the salary I am paid for it. No doubt money is important, but I won’t cry upon it if its a little less than expected for a job that I am happy with.
    Also I dont think that all Govt employees are nuts. If the management allows free flow of ideas and encourages creativity, then these departments and companies can prosper too. But then again… it comes down to an issue of bureaucracy more than anything else.

    • Deepan – Not always, it creates an awareness that Govt jobs can be respectable and worth its weight in financial terms as well. Yes, job description matters but I can bet you 8 out of 10 in India would still prefer the pvt sector over a Govt job if they had to hear only about the job and nothing more and what they will be paid. What do you think? I am not suggesting Govt employees are nuts, as you rightly say they need to be shaped up and made efficient by some smart management.

      • Well Sharmila, respectable how? By advertising benefits? I don’t think so. Well, people hear about the job anyways when a job is advertised. It is only during the interview he becomes more familiar with the benefits that the job carries. And it is difficult to judge about how many people would choose Govt jobs and how many Pvt. Do you realise the number of applications any advertised Govt job gets? It outnumbers the pvt job applications by a mile. Here is an example from the SBI exam that was held earlier this year. There were 264,000 applicants for 1,100 vacancies in Maharashtra.
        It is just a rush to get in the Govt sector as most people know what it carries.

  10. Sharmila & Deepan, I don’t think it’s about education or salary or perks. The problem lies in the attitude, the mindset, the babuism, and the absence of a professional and competitive work culture and total lack of accountability.

  11. Deepan – There may be more applications and I would not have the knowledge of the demographics in the least, I speak for myself. But do enlighten me as to what exactly a Govt job looks like, what does it carry in terms of allowances and retirement benefits that makes it superior to the private sector or if not at par?

    Melwyn – I agree accountability is the culprit and so is attitude.

    Deepan & Melwyn – Does the laid back attitude come from the fact that Government money is no one’s money? There is no respect given to the tax payer’s money unlike the private sector where we have the owners forcing the accountability on all counts.

  12. And let us not compare ourselves to Singapore etc, it is not practical. We come with a lot of political baggage, I am just trying to understand what would be the best way to get AI back on the runway and i am still tilting to privatization. It is the toughest thing in India to change the Government sector’s attitude and accountabilities, it has spread itself for far too long and far too wide. I know we have to start somewhere, and we must…but it will take a decade under an able leadership to start seeing tangible results..by then, AI would be historic. Comments?

  13. Well, I agree with what Melwyn has to say about the issues pertaining to Govt jobs. We can carry on the discussion about Govt jobs and private jobs but I guess we would be diverting off the main topic.

    Coming back to AI and its privatisation; in short it just needs to be revamped from top to bottom, hire people on merit, make existing staff accountable for the job they do, have strong management and make sure they are not affiliated to political parties and are strong enough to take strong decisions, do not involve political powers in the management of the company or in the day to day affairs, consult professionals before making big decisions so that blunders like AI and Indian Airlines mergers are not repeated… the list goes on. Well this is still a layman’s view. Things may not be as wrong as we are making it sound here, but then there is something that is not going right there and this is all we can see, unless there is another scam involved which is yet to surface. All we can do is speculate to a certain extent!!

  14. And while I open The Times of India this is what I see: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Crorepati-clerks-in-Uttar-Pradesh-government/articleshow/5373799.cms

    How can we leave corruption out of this whole debate!

  15. You are right Sharmila, the laidback attitude is because nobody is held accountable. In the private sector, Companies are constantly focused on innovation, image building, enhancing brand value, creating wealth for the stakeholders, building customer confidence, improving the bottom line and maintaining the highest standards of corporate governance. Why? Because these Companies understand that to stay afloat in the highly competitive world of business they have to compare favorably with the best in the world, and that they do not have the cushion of Govt aid to fall back on.

  16. Melwyn & Deepan – Corruption is a bigger debate! I wish to write more but before I forget Merry Xmas to all of you. Will be back in a bit..

  17. Deepan & Melwyn – Agree on

    Revamping existing structure
    Management change
    Attitude change
    Merit based selection
    Top Down accountability and vice versa
    Competition is a must

    But..I must add that things are pretty ugly with AI..

  18. Thank you & Merry Xmas to you too!

  19. Deepan & Melwyn – Most times corruption is a result of poor pay!No?

  20. No Sharmila, all poor are not corrupt and similarly all the rich are not incorruptible. It is a matter of one’s value system.

    • I am trying to understand what forces corruption? Moral values of individuals are no longer as sensitive as they used to be in India..there is something called the “cha;ltha hai” attitude which I find is the biggest menace. for example.. Would you pay a cop 200 Rs to get away from a minor traffic offence or would you rather face it in an unorganized court room with unorganized procedures?

  21. Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

    You are right Sharmila.Even I have stopped boarding AI after a few recent staggering incidences.The one that happened a few months back when the engine caught fire or something like that,all this apparently explains its plight………And can you believe it….a rat delayed the take off once hahahaha!!!!!!!!!!

  22. aseemrastogi2 Says:

    really well written :)..i srsly dont feel the govt should give them a financial lifeline..cuz till date they havent done anything 2 deserve it

    • Aseem – Thanks, the Govt should do so to some extent and monitor AI to see where the money is going and how it is being used. But, privatization seems to be the only hope at the moment at the rate things are moving.

      • Well, in all fairness to AI, it is wrong to blame this for the rat entering the plane. These are things beyond their control. It could have happened with any Airline for that matter, during maintenence for example. Guys, there are things that are wrong with the airline, but dont hold everything against them. Atleast I wouldn’t

  23. It’s wrong to say that corruption arises just because of poor pay. It could be one of the factors, but personal ethics and moral values do play a much bigger role. I know people who are not as rich to be influential enough, but they havent bribed anyone to get their job done all their life. I admire such people who live by their principles they have set for themselves in life. To be honest with you, it is not difficult. Example: If you are someone who will not bribe a cop for a traffic offence, then I am sure that you do not break the law, where possible. Sometimes things are just not in your control.
    Sharmila, it is also wrong to just generalise by saying that moral values of individuals are no longer sensitive as they used to be. Due the the way the system works in India, people have no option but to compromise at times and more often than not, unfortunately, it ist he poor who has to bear the brunt of it.

    Salman: It is no laughing matter that a take off was delayed because of a rat. It is a major safety issue and I would like to believe what was followed was correct and followed keeping in mind the safety of all on board. You haven’t mentioned what exactly happened, so difficult to comment. But I am sure you would be the first one blaming the airline of something had gone wrong with the flight if the flight took off, ignoring the rat.

    • Deepan – I am inferring that moral values are no longer like the times of our grandparents and parents time where to a large extent people were civil , friendly and above all honest. I miss that old school of values and traditions. Today, everybody wants to do things quickly, buy things rapidly, from houses to fancy cars are a must have by the late 20s. So people fall prey to temptation, as you rightly say there are a few who do not and still believe in hard work as the key to success and I applaud them.

    • Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

      Well,may be I would have.I dont directly blame the airline for this controversial “rat”.But as Sharmila said,such incidents worsen the condition.

      The web addresses may have spoken what I meant…Stay calm lad

      • Stay calm.. me? You must be kidding. The topic of discussion is about the issues faced by the airline and if it would be a viable option to privatise it. To begin with, there was no need to bring in the rat story and then laugh about it. All I said in response is that this is not something that can be blamed on the airline.

        Sharmila – Sorry but I fail to understand how after reading the rat incident you feel that the situation of AI is worse than you thought it is? I am sure your perception would have been different if the same rat had delayed a Jet Airways flight. Probably, we would have laughed on the rat rather than the airline!

      • Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

        OK Sir we give up.The rat was a generous soul

  24. And yes, wishing you all a merry christmas and a happy new year. Be safe and have a fun time 🙂

  25. The most worrisome thing about corruption is that we have come to accept it as a part of our existence. Whenever we need to get some work done from Govt Depts we are mentally prepared to pay bribes, and our conscience does not warn us that what we are doing is against the law. Many a times, we end up offering the bribe even before the concerned official places his demand. We are all responsible for the way things are. We need to change ourselves first, only then can we hope to make a difference.

  26. Deepan – The rat must find it so tough to get through an aero bridge and enter the plane ( better than using stairs though ), but I seriously wonder how he got in??? And yes, sometimes these things can happen to an airline and probably most wont get reported too!

  27. Deepan & Salman – Deepan rightly says the topic is privatization or not and we are speaking of rats and cats, my fault largely though!..But if I were to spot rodents in a flight even if it was emirates or BA let alone Jet, my opinion of the airline would plummet, I can assure you of that and it is no laughing matter. But lets get the topic back on the airlines, its impact on our economy and its plummeting services.
    Hope both of you had a good X’mas. I am just back after watching three idiots and I will write all about it t’row..!

  28. Hi sharmila ji,as I read your today’s post,I was compelled to click on your blog to read more!Though I had read about a snake on an Air-India flight,I didn’t know much about it.I.ve been on an Air India flight just once.There has been a lot in the papers about the standards they keep now-a-days.Surely a snake on a plane,specially as it wasn’t caught,would’ve kept the paasengers on their toes,the whole time!!

  29. Sharmila,

    As promised on the last page, I am going to agree. And only agree.

    Albeit in my own way. 🙂

    One of my most frightening experiences with Air India was in ’96.

    I ambled in my usual dreamy sort of way into the departure zone of the Sahar International Airport in Mumbai(Now renamed Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus).

    Its quite easy to spot an AI counter. Its normally the one where the queue starts from the street outside and there is no official at the desk to issue boarding cards.

    After a somewhat longish wait, in which I considered the practicality of swimming across the sea to the ME coast, I finally got a small strip of boarding pass. Printed on it was a politely bowing Maharaja with a royal moustache that had accidently grown on one side of the nose. I hoped that the artist was not one of the aircraft engineers…

    For a moment, as I was writing out the details of my emigration for the customs officer, I thought of what a fool I had been a few hours ago when my mother was praying for me. I had laughed at her god-fearing nature. ‘What was she worried about?’ I had wondered.

    As I entered the craft, I suddenly realised what she knew… She knew I was flying Air India…

    The lights inside were quite dim, probably kept that way on purpose to prevent scaring the passengers. As I stood haplessly in the aisle, there was a soft rumbling sound behind my right ear, like the sound a rolling thunder among monsoon clouds. I turned around expecting the worst.

    Imagine my horror when I saw the apparition of my mother-in-law in all her white glory. For one moment I silently rose towards the ceiling. But then better senses prevailed. It was impossible for my mother-in-law to be dressed in a starched blue saree and looking politely at me.

    “Hello”, I said, just to make sure.

    “Gudh evening, Sur” said the rolling thunder, “Can I see yaurr boardhing khard?”

    “Eh, what?”

    “”Boardhing thickhet”

    “Why?” I asked, still recovering my poise, as you will understand.

    “Yaur ceet numbher iz on-it”

    “Oh I know my seat number” I said, realising for the first time that this old lady was the air hostess, “16F”

    “Windhauw on the right”

    “Right” I said.

    “Right” she said.

    “yes, right”

    “Yes, Sir, right”

    I saw that one of us had to stop. So I just nodded and proceeded to occupy the space which seemed smaller than the window.

    To cut a nightmare short, a few minutes later, a very chatty sort of god-help-us sat next to me… and imagine the effect on my already distraught nerves when he came up with this crack:

    “Hi, ” he said, “have you heard of the pilots joke?”

    “???” I said

    “One plane is flying over the mediterrainian sea, and the pilots voice comes on the PA system. He says,’Ladies and gentlemen, we are now flying over the blue med sea. If you look out of the window you will sea a calm sea, and a small boat in the middle. Ladies and gentlemen this is your flight captain speaking from that boat…. hehehe!”

    I stared at his morbid sense of humor.

    Shortly, we heard a male voice on the cracking PA system,

    “Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. This is Captain Ghosh. We thank you for flying Air India…”

    I listened carefully…. very very carefully…

    🙂

  30. Aishwarya Says:

    Reader’s hilarious narration reminds me of one of my travels by AI.

    The airhostess asks me, “Veg or Nonveg?”

    I reply, “Nonveg.”

    “And for the kid?”

    “Nonveg, please.”

    To which the airhostess retorts,”Are you sure?? Dont waste chicken.”

    !!!

    When they say travel ‘cheap’, they really mean it!

    • Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

      LOL!!!!

    • Aish – Jeez, your examples only make it worse..:)

      • Aishwarya Says:

        Let me make it better.

        When I traveled Cathay in XI std, I asked the very pleasant airhostess for a drink. She gave me something sparkly. I took a few sips; it was sour. I was out like a light. Couldnt open my eyes when we landed at Mumbai. Apparently, it was white wine (their definition of a ‘drink’?)

        In AI, I can be sure I will just get plain water or juice and nothing but.

        P.S. I am a teetotaller.

      • Mix message, Aishwarya…

        Cathay Pacific left you in a state that you couldn’t open your eyes when you landed in Mumbai.

        I bet Air India can do better. Not just eyes or ears, AI can make sure that you don’t even find Mumbai when you wake up.

        At Air India, we don’t fly passengers, we teach them to fly…

        🙂

        Kidding. I shall support it nevertheless. Its my national carrier. When it doesn’t fly in the air it floats on water. Thats why we call it the flagship.

      • Aishwarya Says:

        Lol, R. A floater by default. Next time I will be ready, complete with eyepatch and parrot!:)

  31. MonaLisa Says:

    🙂 May be I shall give it a try once. IF & ONLY They promise me landing back ALIVE…Lol

  32. MonaLisa Says:

    In one piece obviously..! 🙂

    • MonaLisa – Your expectations are a fair bit..;)

    • MonaLisa,

      It is not impossible for you to fly Air India, though I am not sure if Napolean wouldn’t change his mind about ‘impossible’ if he had known Air India during his time.

      The safest way to enjoy a trip on Air India is this:

      Book a ticket from Sahar Airport to Santacruz Airport in Mumbai. Incidently, both the airports share the same runway as they are in same campus – one is for international flights and the other is domestic.

      So, the plane will taxi from one end of the runway to another and the pilot will decently call it a flight! You will have landed safely without even taking off.

      Apart from this option, Air India only guarantees that every flight that goes in the air, shall come down eventually. They are not interested in the technical aspects.

      🙂

      • Reader – ha ha ha ha

      • On a serious note Sharmila,

        What do you think is morbid? Attending a funeral or doing our duties without allowing death to rule our lives?

      • MonaLisa Says:

        🙂 🙂 🙂 Omg..! Omg.! Omg..!!! Bull’s eye..! Reader..!
        What a tempting idea..! can’t wait any longer for such a venture,to experience such an Out of World One Time Flight straight to heaven…! I shall be on my way catching next flight for India before something else change my mind…! 🙂

      • Reader – To be honest, livong life in fear of flying AI is more morbid.

      • parmaatma Says:

        True Sharmila,

        Let me share a secret. Do what I do when I visit a doctor. I walk into the clinic and shake the doctors hands and ask, “How are you doctor?”. If the doc starts saying telling me his /her sufferings, I wish him/ her good luck and find another one.

        Lets do that with pilots. Walk into an aircraft and ask the cabin crew,

        “Hi, is the pilot onboard?”

        “Yes”

        “Everything under control?

        “Eh?”

        “Never mind…”

        🙂

      • I opened your page and the server automatically logged on to my blog. Didn’t notice the text boxes re-filled by wordpress!

        🙂

  33. Salman Alvi Says:

    Following is a letter published in Khaleej times about AI.

    Four years ago, we had a very bad experience with AI Express while travelling from Dubai to Kochi. The night flight was indefinitely delayed.
    My wife who travelled a week later, did in fact, check-in her luggage to be told that the flight would take off only the next day! She was not even offered hotel accommodation.

    The return flight from Kochi too was delayed. We were told ‘the pilot had not arrived’.

    If such is the shoddy manner of running an airline, it is not surprising that such tragedies happen.

    Simon Stock, Dubai

    What more now?????????

  34. I am not very optimistic about the investigation of the accident. The speakers for the ministry seemed quite evasive and diffident.

    Its probably going to be one of those political cover-ups that ends with a lot of technical jargon.

    A building in Moscow collapsed one day.

    The cement, sand and stone were brought to the court of enquiry.

    Stone said, “I am red in color. This is the color of communism. I do no wrong”

    The stone was acquitted.

    The sand cried, “I was tested by engineers. I was cleaned and used in the building. I cannot be blamed.”

    The sand was acquitted.

    The cement said, “How can anyone blame me? I was not even present in that building which fell”

    Air India is that cement. The pilot was a foreigner, the aircraft was a boeing, the airport is under the DDCA and the passengers had paid for themselves. No one will be blamed. And Air India will say it has no direct role in any part of the process.

  35. Very well depicted and believe this incident too is not ignored, neglected and forgotten after providing relief funds to the lost families by the AI officials and govt for their own benefits.

    Ramya

    • Thanks for your comment Ramya. This incident is bound to be forgotten quite soon. It is a pity indeed.

    • parmaatma Says:

      Indeed Ramya,

      All losses are insured. Passengers are entitled to US$10,000 as per the geneva convention. The insurance company will call for applications in triplicate and copies of evidences to be submitted to their offices in New Delhi, Chennai and the North Pole.

      The Aircraft will be paid for.

      The AI employees are protected by their trade unions. They are already flexing their muscles today. 25,000 have gone on a flash strike today for raise in wages.

      There may be some confidence building roadshow in the days to come. Hopefully, the investigation report will provide true findings to the engineers who are required to prevent the accident from happening again.

      For those of us who can afford better airlines, lets not test our fate. Fly with a private airline.

  36. Sorry, Ramya, the sign-off should be ‘Reader’. WordPress automatically entered details from the cache on my laptop.

  37. Sharmila,

    I may not be too patriotic, but all the same it pains me very much to see our national carrier become the butt of jokes in its own domain. However, I wish to console the Maharaja by assuring him that all of us here are as distressed as you are over the state of affairs in AI. All the ridicule and frustration directed towards you is well meaning and only meant to provoke you to change yourself.

    Melwyn

  38. Thank you, Reader!

  39. This is not a joke. The Management of Air India has released the following appeal today for its employees who have gone on strike:

    Appeal to employees

    The recent unfortunate incident involving an Air India Express flight from Dubai to Mangalore is still fresh in the minds of every one. A large number of employees volunteered to assist and be available at the disaster site for helping Air India deal with the tragedy and reach out to the people. In this hour of crisis, the Management earnestly appeals to all sections of employees to join hands to strengthen the airline and maintain high performance to show that Air India can cope up with any emergency.

    Air India, as befits its role of a National Carrier, is committed to ensuring that genuine aspirations of all sections of the employees will be met. The Company has a well-established system of dealing with any grievance – be it of an individual employee or groups of employees.

    With the onset of the summer season, all our flights are reporting full loads. In fact, it was only on Sunday, 16th May 2010, that we flew a record number of 50,308 passengers on our entire network. We are on the path of consolidation post the merger of erstwhile Air India and Indian Airlines; and for this the whole hearted co-operation along with involvement and unstinted support of each and every one of you is a must.

    Date: May 25, 2010

    ===

    To me, this reads as if the management and the unions are working hand-in-glove in diverting public attention.

    Accountability is not a part of the business plans of our PSU…

  40. MonaLisa Says:

    Hmmmm…. passengers “Go To Hell”…….! 🙂
    Yikes…! They already are….! Darn…..

    • I have plan. I am going to talk to a lawyer in Delhi and ask him if we can file a PIL (Public Interest Petition) to ground all Air India flights till the safety norms are verified by an independent auditor.

    • MonaLisa – This is morbid I say!..:)

    • Nite this:

      NACIL (The carrier company of all the PSU airlines namely the merged Air India,Indian Airlines,Indian and one more), has filed a pre-emptive petition against its own unions!

      Its like a movie producer filing a proxy case against his own movie to prevent an NGO or private citizen from blocking the movie release. A case cannot be heard if another petition is already pending in another court!

      Meanwhile, the strike farce is done with. The Delhi High Court has asked them to report back!

      The minister has sacked 15 union leaders. So, everything is now hunky-dory!

      Don’t ask what happened to the insurance of the 158 who died in the Mangalore crash!

      I liked the caption on one of the news channels, “A National Shame – Tax payers money squandered!”

      • Reader – Absolutely a joke. The strike was the biggest farce and the sacking is a bigger one. Give it some time, the union leaders will be back. I feel very sorry for the national carrier, the real victim.

      • Reader – a clearer picture would help..I meant your DP.

  41. PIL: Public Interest Litigation.

  42. Sharmila,

    This…

  43. Is…

  44. The…

  45. Hundredth…

  46. Response…

  47. On this page….!

  48. MonaLisa Says:

    can you really file a lawsuit in public interest in India!?

    By grounding all the fleets who would benefit really!? Private Airlines..!?

  49. MonaLisa Says:

    can you really file a lawsuit in public interest in India!?

    By grounding all the fleets who would benefit really!? Private Airlines..!?
    I believe Gov. should take strong actions on immediate basis.

  50. MonaLisa Says:

    I believe Gov. should take strong actions on urgent/immediate basis.

    • Air India flies about 40,000 to 50,000 passengers a day. Private airlines may benefit for a week. But once performance assurance of Air India is confirmed, it will regain its business. It is after all a national airlines of 1 billion people.

      Yes, it is possible to file a PIL and that doesn’t cost anything. There is a panel of Supreme court lawyers who are tasked with that.

      If the petition is accepted, Air India will be served a show cause notice and made to comply with Supreme Court orders.

  51. MonaLisa Says:

    Why does every public sector has to be so inefficient and lousy?
    Read about a scam of “Bullet proof vests”. Jeeesss…. that makes me sick to death..! 😉

    • I believe it is a vicious cycle.

      I had the opportunity once to study the working of a pharmaceutical PSU, IPCL in Hyderabad. It was already bankrupt and supported by government funds.

      The employees are assured of salaries, promotions (by seniority & qualification only), and a handsome pension. Its a ‘deemed’ non-profit organisation.

      The spin-off is that practically every aspect of the business is sub-contracted to private companies who have set-up shops in teh industrial area nearby. The medicines produced by IPCL are supplied to villages and government hospitals at subsidized rates.

      The private small scale units operating on IPCL are owned by the families of the IPCL employees.

      Air India also had a similar set-up except some sub-contracts like in-flight food and beverages which was sub-contracted to Brittania. Even the airports are run by the Airports Authority of India which is sublet to private operators now.

      So, except for pilots and cabin crew there is practically nothing in the business that is actually done by Air India.

  52. Latest on the AI saga.

    Air India running into real time losses due to the strike. Financial losses will be made up by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The Ministry will get the money from the taxes collected from the people.

    So, even if we don’t fly Air India we pay for it anyway.

    AI management has got permission to sack all the striking employees.

    Who is paying for all this mess?

  53. Some really brainy bunch of spin-doctors working for the Minister for Aviation, Mr. Patel.

    1. He pretended to resign after the Mangalore crash

    2. He has threatened to stop all AI operations suo motu, today. Lets see who buys that.

    3. He has declared the strike illegal which gives him powers to sack anyone at will to save the situation.

    4. High Court intervention solicited by AI to break the strike

    5. The farce of talks with the unions continues in the wings.

  54. so….will these planes work….?

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