Sunday, February 05, 2023

Overcoming hurdles, Air India emerges stronger than ever

New Delhi: Over a year ago, the Tata Group took over the Indian national carrier Air India battered by years of mismanagement, ignorance and a huge debt on its balance sheet. However, 365 days later, it has been a triumphant year for Air India, with a strong promise and a hope to become the iconic national “Maharaja” once again.

Over the past twelve months, the airline has achieved significant gains, with a keen eye on the future; the airline has meticulously crafted a roadmap to transform itself into a global powerhouse with an unyielding Indian spirit. As it embarks on this exciting journey, Air India has taken a number of steps like revamping its in-flight menu, commitment to modify its interiors, the launch of new customer interfaces and the addition of over 1,200 professionals across key functions.

One of the first steps the airline took after its take over from the government of India on 27 January last year, was to overhaul its management. It made key changes to the board of management of the airlines in April last year with an eye to enhance customer service and operations.

The past year has given many reasons for the airline to celebrate with some major and key improvements in its operations. As key to any airline to be successful in a competitive and a fast-growing market like that of India, Air India has increased the number of average daily flights by 30% within the last one year.

Air India also over the last one year, increased its fleet size by 27%. In all, the airlines now has 100 operating aircraft. Air India, which was once known for its international routes and had some of the prime landing and take-off slots in important cities in Europe and the USA, had to pause operations in several routes, some due to the pandemic, and some due to the “mismanagement” by its erstwhile owners. However, over the past year, the airlines not only resumed operations in many of these routes, it also increased weekly international flights from India by 63%.

Since January 2022, it has launched 16 new international routes, which includes the Mumbai-New York, Delhi-Milan, Delhi-Vienna, Goa-London Gatwick, Amritsar-London Gatwick, Ahmedabad-London Gatwick, amongst several others. The airline has also seen growth in passenger uplift, with average daily passenger numbers up 72% and average daily revenue doubled. The average daily frequency per domestic route has also increased by 81%.

One of the most significant improvements that Air India has been able to achieve in the past one year is its on-time performance. Air India, under the government, was infamous for delays and often struggled with timely departures. However, over the last year, the airline has been able to improve its on-time performance from 70% in 2021 to 90% in 2022.

It has also successfully cleared a backlog of one million aged refunds and reduced it to zero, with new cases now turned around in short order. Air India also decided to correct its network in the domestic sector and focused on network optimisation. Unlike the earlier times when the airlines flew in almost every network, even in the much loss-making sector, the new owner decided to cut down on routes that were not making profit for the airline. It, in fact, started to focus on the metro to metro routes, keeping in mind the full-service nature of the carrier. In the non-metro routes the airline was facing stiff competition from the budget carriers who had been offering much competitive fares which had been making it difficult for a full-service carrier to sustain.

Air India’s new avatar is also striving to enhance customer service experience for all its passengers right from the time of booking tickets with the airlines till the time one departs the airport post arrivals to the destination. For this, some of the measures that the airlines have taken up includes reduced average wait time for customers when calling the airlines’ customer care by nearly 90%.

05/02/23 Dibyendu Mondal/Sunday Guardian

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