Over the last year, the airline has been able to improve its on-time performance from 70% in 2021 to 90% in 2022.
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%.
The airline has also revamped its in-flight menu and will shortly introduce an enhanced menu on its international routes. The airline has also launched the first phase of new customer interfaces, including a website and mobile application, as well as proactive customer notification systems.
Air India’s CEO and MD Campbell Wilson called the “transformational journey” of Air India over the last one year as “stunning”. “We have embarked upon one of the most ambitious turnarounds in international aviation history. We have set out to create an airline that ranks amongst the best in the world, and will proudly represent the new India on the global stage. And we have made quite remarkable progress in a very short space of time,” Wilson said.
Wilson further added that Air India would not shy away from ambitious actions. One of the most ambitious actions that the airline is likely to announce in the coming days is the merger of Air Vistara with Air India. Air Vistara is also managed by the Tata Group in partnership with Singapore Airlines. Air India has already merged its low-cost carrier Air India express with Air Asia which was also a part of the Tata Group.
The transformational journey of Air India has not been easy as the airlines has also been marred with controversy, beginning with the selection of its new CEO. The Tata group had roped in Turkish Airlines’ CEO Ilker Ayci to lead the airlines; however, his appointment received major criticism in India due to his political ties in his country. Ayci chose not to join the airline and declined the offer in some weeks.
After this, Campbell Wilson, who was leading Scoot Airlines in Singapore, was brought in by the Tatas to lead the airline. The airline faced one of its strongest criticisms in the last one month of its year’s journey that came from an old woman who complained of a man peeing on her in a New York-Delhi flight.
The “pee-gate” incident had caused much damage to the airlines’ image for which the Indian aviation watchdog, DGCA, also slapped the airlines with a fine of Rs 30 lakh. Passengers had also often been complaining about the airline’s interior, especially with its old fleet.
However, Air India, now with the Tatas known to have deep pockets, has committed itself to revamp the interior of most of its existing flights. The airline has also committed to infuse US$400 million to refurbish the interiors of its entire wide-body fleet, including latest generation seats and best-in-class inflight entertainment across all cabin classes.
The airline is also expected to make a historic order of 500 aircraft in the coming months, which would make it perhaps the only airline in the world to do so in a single order. The orders are expected to be split between Airbus and Boeing, which would be delivered to the airlines in the next one decade.
“Air India has a clearly well-defined roadmap under Vihaan.AI to transform itself over the next five years to being among the best globally with an Indian heart. Hundreds of initiatives across 22 broad workstreams are underway to transform the airline over three phases: Taxi, Take Off and Climb,” an Air India spokesperson said.