Air India: The search continues

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 02, 2011 Published on March 02, 2011


The harder they tried, the more they failed. The recent resignation of Air India's first Chief Operating Officer (COO), Captain Gustav Baldauf, proves the point once more. It has shown that the Minister, Mr Vayalar Ravi, is the real boss of Air India. But to what end?

The COO's resignation, which it is believed was because of prodding from officials, came on February 28, a day that brought more bad news for Air India. Air India was provided a budgetary support of Rs 1,200 crore, short of the more than the Rs 2,000 crore that the airline was hoping for. The budgetary allocation will help the airline, losing Rs 8 crore daily, keep up its operations only for a few months, unless some drastic measures are taken.

Given this scenario, how wise was Mr Ravi's decision to put together a new team to run Air India at this juncture? With one member of the team put together by Captain Baldauf, Captain Pawan Arora, already being sacked and the other, Mr Stephan Sukumar, all set to leave with him, the airline is rudderless at the top. Further, any other foreigner is unlikely to join the airline because of the public spat that the COO had with the Government. So Air India will now have to look within for talent to set its house in order.

Manpower is top priority now as the airline slowly loses ground in the domestic and international skies. Domestically, Air India is coming in at the fourth position in a market with seven operators. The new team will also have to look at wage parity between Air India and Indian, even as pilots from Indian plan a strike to protest against the disparity.

At the moment, the only thing Air India has going for it is that it has finally managed to get a common code of operations for Air India and Indian Airlines. This is a key requisite for the airline joining Star Alliance, a global club of airlines, a move which will eventually help Air India garner millions of dollars in revenue annually by flying passengers of Star Alliance's member airlines.

If the airline ensures that all employees work together, there is no reason why Air India also cannot rise from the ashes, given that not only the domestic but also outbound air-travel market is growing by leaps and bounds.

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Published on March 02, 2011
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