Friday, January 28, 2022

Flyers, agents seek more int’l routes, better services from revamped AI

Kolkata: The return of flights on international routes out of Kolkata; better connectivity across domestic sectors; revival of world-class in-flight service; reliable and on-time performance: these are among multiple expectations flyers and travel agents have from the revamped Air India under the Tata group.

Corporate executive and frequent flyer Shankho Chowdhury, who has travelled AI in its heyday and witnessed its decline, believes Tatas will be able to engineer a turnaround because there are emotions involved. “I believe there will be an extra effort to revive the airline’s glory. I look forward to better connectivity and service, perhaps a direct flight from Kolkata to Germany, or France in continental Europe, regularisation of the London flight and an onward connection to the US,” he said, pointing to the service excellence in the hospitality sector with its Taj Hotels chain.

Corporate advisor Soumitra Ghatak felt the Maharaja that had lost its sheen over the past three-four decades could gradually regain it if it improved reliability and service orientation. “Reliability is a hygiene factor. That’s why so many people prefer IndiGo. The erstwhile Jet Airways had a feel-good factor. If AI is able to offer them both, it will be an airline to reckon with,” he said.

Travel agent B T Ramnani of Vensimal World Travel became emotional speaking about the airline. After all, the company that his grandfather Vensimal Ramnani had set up in 1928 with offices in Mumbai and Karachi had supported AI when the Tatas started it in 1932. The Kolkata office was set up in 1933. “Until the 1970s, AI had flights to London, Tokyo, and Yangon. There is a lot of scope for revival of some of these flights and introduction of flights on new routes,” he said.

Travel Agents Federation of India chairman (east) Anil Punjabi hopes the airline will improve domestic connectivity with at least four daily flights to Delhi, three daily flights to Mumbai and Chennai, two daily flights to Pune, Bengaluru and Goa, and a daily flight to Cochin and Ahmedabad.

Travel Agents Association of India chairman (east) Manav Soni, though, warned that expectations are so high that managing them could pose a challenge. “There will be incremental improvements. But we must remember that the former glorious AI operated in an environment when there was no competition and only the rich and famous travelled,” said Soni.

28/01/22 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India

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