Air India has been officially taken over by the Tata Group following a historic victory. On 27th January 2022, the Government handed back the National Carrier to its rightful owners, the Tata Group. After winning the bid on Air India of Rs. 18,000 crores on October 8th, 2021, the Tata’s have finally owned Air India.
There have always been discussions of the Maharaja (Air India) in the media for various reasons, the most prominent one being its privatization. After India’s independence in 1947, the Government bought a 49% stake in Air India which was originally founded by Mr. J.R.D. Tata in 1932. The Government bought the remaining stake, thereby making Air India (formerly known as Tata Airlines) India’s national carrier.
Mr. Tata continued serving as chairman of the airline until 1978 when Morarji Desai removed him from office following a fatal crash involving Air India’s Boeing 747 on 1st January 1978, killing 213 passengers. Later reinstated by Indira Gandhi, Mr. Tata eventually resigned in 1968 after his successor Ratan Tata was appointed as the chairman by the Rajiv Gandhi government. In 1989, after Ratan Tata stepped down, the two companies parted ways for good.
Reportedly, Mr. J.R.D. Tata opposed the move to nationalize Air India because he believed the government lacked experience managing an airline company. With Air India facing severe losses due to faulty decisions on aircraft purchases, internal politics, and the failed merger with Indian Airlines, it became evident that the airline was indeed declining. As a result, Air India incurred debts of Rs.61,562 crores, of which the government has already cleared over Rs.61,000 crore ahead of its transfer to the Tata Group.
The Narendra Modi government took the decision in 2020 to sell off Air India’s entire 100% stake and issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) to invite bidders. The process was however delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Tata Company finally acquired Air India in a successful acquisition on 8th October 2021, following months of speculation. Tata’s Air India has now become the third airline under its ownership after Vistara and AirAsia (a joint-venture with Singapore Airlines).
In terms of staffing and flight operations, no major changes are expected, except for minor ones like assessing cabin crew BMIs and other checks before reporting to flights. In addition, Air India announced that it would be enhancing the in-flight experience for first and business-class passengers. Certain amenities that had been discontinued due to the Covid-19 pandemic could be brought back while talks are underway to upgrade services.
The PTI (Press Trust of India) reported that in-flight meals will be enhanced, and cabin crew would begin addressing passengers as guests. All crew members would be groomed and inspected by grooming executives at the airport. The major focus would be on revamping Air India’s performance primarily its timeliness. Thus the door would be closed 10 minutes before departure. As a special addition, an audio message from Ratan Tata will also be played on flights, with instructions to the crew regarding when to play it.
Life has come to a full circle for Air India and The Tata Group. After years of waiting, this has been a historical win for both companies that have now become one. Whether Air India can reclaim its social position and how long it will take to be reformed can only be determined over time.