The Air India Mess

Today’s fatal accident of an Air India Express Boeing plane at the Mangalore Airport brings to attention again the utter mismanagement of an airline which hardly deserves to exist in the first place.

A huge loss-making public sector corporation, Air India just sucked away thousands of crores of taxpayers’ money from a rather reluctant Indian Government. No hard decisions have been taken by the airline’s board of directors or by the government so far. It is a very inefficiently run airline with 209 employees per aircraft in service, as compared to less than 150 employees in the private airlines of India, and less in other advanced countries.

First of all, there is no need for a majority Government-owned airline. If at all, government should have less than 50% equity, leaving market forces and a competent board to make hard decisions without being convulsed by unions and employee-driven policies, rather than adopting a consumer-focused strategy. It is rather critical to successfully compete in a deregulated market and win new customers and market share, but Indian Airlines and Air India (both merged) have been unsuccessful in the marketplace.

Poor service, poor maintenance, and indifferent attitude of the crew coupled with an ineffective board have defeated an otherwise competent Chairman & CEO.

And, now this disaster. All fingers now point to Air India’s management. The CEO should resign, but that will never happen. The Operations Director should resign, but that will also not happen. And, the board will not act. And the Civil Aviation Ministry will hide behind the fact that an enquiry is ongoing, etc., etc., The encouraging thing was that the Civil Aviation Minister immediately flew to Mangalore for an on-the-spot assessment. He has also offered to resign !

Well, it is high time that the government gets out of the aviation business and subject Air India to market forces. Air India does not deserve to be saved by spending all our monies !

Here’s my condolences for the 159 passengers who are dead, due to the poor piloting and mismanagement of Air India.

No Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
22nd May 2010


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