Air India
File:AI logo.gif
IATA ICAO Callsign
HubsChhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
Indira Gandhi International Airport
Focus citiesChennai International Airport
Frequent-flyer programFlying Returns
Fleet size47 (+61 orders)
Parent companyAir India
HeadquartersMumbai, India
Key peopleV. Thulasidas (Chairman)

Air India (formerly Air-India, Hindi: एअर इंडिया) is the national flag carrier of India with a worldwide network of passenger and cargo services. It is one of the two state-owned airlines in the country, the other being Indian Airlines. Its main bases are Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai and Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi with hubs at Chennai International Airport. The airline connects 95 destinations around the world, including 12 gateways in India with Air India Express, which is a fully-owned subsidiary of Air India.


Air India was founded as Tata Airlines in 1932, a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group) by J. R. D. Tata.

On October 15, 1932 the founder, J. R. D. Tata flew a single engined De Havilland Puss Moth registered VT-and carrying air mail (postal mail of Imperial Airways) from Karachi's Drigh Road Aerodrome to Bombay's Juhu Airstrip via Ahmedabad. The aircraft continued to Madras via Bellary piloted by Royal Air Force pilot Nevill Vincent.

Following the end of World War II, regular commercial service was restored in India and Tata Airlines became a public limited company on 29 July 1946 under the name Air India.

Air India building, Nariman Point, Mumbai

In 1948 49% of the airline was acquired by the Government of India, with an option to purchase an additional 2%. In return, the airline was granted status to operate international services from India as the designated flag carrier under the name Air India International. On June 8, 1948 a Lockheed Constellation L-749A named Malabar Princess and registered VT-CQP took off from Bombay bound for London via Cairo and Geneva. This marked the airline's first long haul international flight, soon followed by service in 1950 to Nairobi via Aden.

On 1 August 1953, the Government of India exercised its option to purchase a majority stake in the carrier and Air India International Limited was born as one of the fruits of the Air Corporations Act that nationalised the air transportation industry. At the same time all domestic services were transferred to Indian Airlines. In 1954, the airline took delivery of its first L-1049 Super Constellations and inaugurated services to Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Air India International entered the jet age in 1960 when its first Boeing 707, named Nandadevi and registered VT-DJJ, was delivered. Jet services to New York via London were inaugurated that same year in May 1960. On June 8, 1962 the airline's name was officially truncated to Air India. On June 11, 1962 Air India became the world's first all-jet airline.

In 1970, Air India moved its offices to downtown Bombay. The next year, the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 747-200 named Emperor Ashoka and registered VT-EBD. This coincided with the introduction of the 'Palace In The Sky' livery and branding. A distinctive feature of this livery is the paintwork around each aircraft window, in the cusped arch style of windows in Indian palaces.

In 1986 Air India took delivery of the Airbus A310. The airline is the largest operator of this type in passenger service. In 1988, Air India also took delivery of two Boeing 747-300s in mixed passenger-cargo configuration.

Close-up on an Air India Boeing 747-400

In 1989, to supplement its "Flying Palace" livery, Air India introduced a new "sun" [1] livery that was mostly white but had a golden sun on a red tail. Only applied to around a half of Air India's fleet, the new livery did not succeed, as the Indian flying public complained about the phasing out of the classic colours. The new livery was dropped after two years and the old scheme was returned. Since then, Air India has been hesitant to radically change the paint scheme, instead opting for minor updates and face lifts.

In 1993, Air India took delivery of the flagship of its fleet when the first Boeing 747-400 named Konark and registered VT-ESM made history by operating the first non-stop flight between New York and Delhi.

In 1994 the airline was registered as Air India Ltd. In 1996, the airline inaugurated service to its second US gateway at Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport. In 1999, the airline opened its dedicated Terminal 2-C at the newly renamed Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.

The 21st century has seen Air India introduce new services to Shanghai in China, as well as two new US gateways at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX).

Air India Mascot "The Maharaja"

To expand it's business and to ride on low cost airlines bandwagon at that time, AI started it's low cost subsidiary named Air India Express in May 2004. AI Express has been operating exclusively on Gulf routes and has proved to be a successful international low cost airline, a rare phenomenon.

In March 2004, Air India started non-stop flights from Ahmedabad's Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport to London, Heathrow, making it the third station from India (after Mumbai and Delhi). In December 2004, Air India leased three Boeing 777-222ER aircraft from United Airlines. With these three new B777s, Air India was able to introduce three new routes: Delhi-Frankfurt-Los Angeles, Delhi-Amritsar-Birmingham-Toronto, and Delhi-Dhaka-Kolkata-London.

Air India lost the chance to become a big international airline, as it did not expand it's fleet due to delays by Govt. of India for almost 10 years. Finally, Air India placed an order of 68 Boeing aircrafts and is hoping to expand it's operations as well as revamp it's image with these new age aircrafts.

Air India has also been granted permission from the Government of India to merge with Indian Airlines, the two flag carriers of India. They have been in the works of completing the merger since January 2007, after permission. The name of the new airline will remain Air India, since it is known worldwide. The two airlines will formally become one on July 15, 2007 when they receive the new Boeing 777-200, with the new livery of the merged airline. The new airline's headquarters will remain in Mumbai, and will have a strong fleet of 130+. After the merger, the 2 airlines will apply for membership with Star Alliance, to make their network bigger, Lufthansa will back Air India's application. Alliance Air and Air India Express are also to merge as the new airline's low-cost arm.[1] Air India has also been changing its fleets interiors, with PTVs, new seats, new overhead compartments, and a new wardrobe for the Air India flight attendants. They have been designed by the French designer Pierre Cardin[2], and are a mix between western, and Indian fashions.

European hub speculation

The Serbian media reported in early January 2007 that Air India is considering a partnership with Jat Airways which may result in a new venture airline that would feed passengers onto Air India's flights, through Belgrade. Details are still sketchy but it appears that Air India hopes to use Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport as a hub for flights to North America (US and Canada) and possibly Europe. [2]

Incidents and accidents


Further information: Air India destinations


Air India codeshares with the following airlines:

Passenger operations

Air India has 50 (two of them only covered by Air India Express) world-wide destinations. It also has code-sharing agreements with international airlines to expand coverage. The airline carried 3.39 million passengers during the financial year ending March 2003 and achieved a load factor of 71.6 per cent, substantially higher than the 66 per cent load factor recorded in the preceding year. Air India offers three classes of service - First Class, Executive Class and Economy Class. Flat bed seats are offered for first class passengers. The airline also offers a frequent flyer programme alone and in collaboration with many of its alliances. The airline also offers luxury lounges in its ground terminals for its First and Executive class travelers in select destinations within India. Air-India has Duty free sales on board its flights, named 'Sky Bazaar'.

Frequent flyer Program

Flying Returns is the frequent flyer programme of Air India. Aside from flight mileage, members receive seat discounts, class upgrades, free hotel stays, and other benefits. It has also been mentioned[citation needed] that once the Air India and Indian Airlines merger is complete, Flying Returns will remain the frequent flyers programme.

Passenger fleet

Air India and its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express operate a fleet consisting of the following 47 aircraft [3] (Last Updated: June 2007):

The Air India fleet consists of the following:

Air India Fleet
Type Total Passengers
(First / Business / Economy)
Routes Notes
Airbus A310 19 201 (0/20/181) Short and medium haul routes 8 owned
11 on lease
Boeing 737-800 13
(11 orders)
157 (0/32/125) Domestic and medium haul routes 7 on dry lease
Boeing 747-300
2 283 (16/40/227) Medium and long haul routes Soon to be converted for Cargo operations,
once Air India receives replacement aircraft
Boeing 747-400 11 435 (16/34/385) Long haul routes 8 owned
3 on lease
Boeing 747-400
1 283 (16/40/227) Long haul routes On lease from IFLC
Boeing 777-200 1 Long haul routes On lease from United Airlines
Boeing 777-200ER 3 Long haul routes On lease from United Airlines
Boeing 777-200LR 1
(8 orders)[5]
Ultra long haul routes First non-stop flight from Mumbai to New York (JFK) from August 1 2007
Boeing 777-300ER 0
(15 orders)
Long haul routes To be delivered in 2007-2008
Boeing 787-8 0
(27 orders)
Long haul routes To be delivered in 2008-2009
Total 47
(61 orders)

Ordered fleet

Air India plans to use the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to replace their Boeing 747-300 aircraft and Boeing 767-300 leased aircraft. They will operate on routes to Europe and the U.S. They plan to use their Boeing 787-8 aircraft to replace their aging A310-300 aircraft on routes to the Middle East and South-east and East Asia. The Boeing 777-200LR will operate on non-stop routes to North America. These new aircraft will also allow Air India to open up new routes to Australia, Canada, Europe, East Asia, and the U.S. In the U.S, Air India plans to add flights to additional cities , which include San Francisco and Washington D.C. It is rumored that Air India will introduce nonstop flights between San Francisco and Bangalore and possibly between Chicago and Hyderabad. However, the Houston and Dallas airport authorities have held talks with Air India to introduce service to India from Texas in the future. [citation needed] And in Canada, it also plans to fly to Vancouver BC, and possibly Montréal. These routes will be put into place when Air India receives its new ordered fleet and when the Air India-Indian Airlines Merger is complete.

The first 777-200LR aircarft was delivered by Boeing to Air India on 26 July 2007 [6] The airline will have this plane, escorted by three Sukhoi fighter jets of the Indian Air Force to Delhi soon after it enters Indian airspace from Seattle. [7]

Air India plans to refurbish the interiors of its 6 owned Boeing 747-400s. This refurbishment will include PTVs in all classes. Air India is set to merge with Indian Airlines to create a mega airline consisting of 130 to 140 aircraft. This will occur in the 2007 fiscal year. The combined entity is leaning toward joining Star Alliance to expand coverage and to be one of the biggest South Asian airlines. Air India will replace the remainder of its Boeing 747-400 by 2011 and is evaluating the Boeing 747-8 and the Airbus A380.

Air India has also ordered 18 Boeing 737-800 for its low cost subsidiary Air India Express of which 7 have been delivered. [4]

Air India is also once again in talks with Airbus for 8 superjumbos, the A380. If Air India orders now they can have these aircrafts ready for service and to meet their needs by 2012. Air India is also considering the new 747-8 from Airbus rival Boeing.

On July 28, 2007 Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel proposed a further fleet expansion of 60 aircraft. [8]

Cargo operations

In 1954, Air India Cargo started its freighter operations with a Douglas DC-3 Dakota aircraft, giving Air India the distinction of being the first Asian airline to operate freighters. The airline operates cargo flights to many destinations. The airline also has ground truck-transportation arrangements on select destinations.

A member of IATA, Air India carries all types of cargo including dangerous goods (hazardous materials) and live animals, provided such shipments are tendered according to IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and IATA Live Animals Regulations.

At the warehouse in Mumbai, Air India has developed a system of inventory management for cargo handling of import/export functions. This takes care of the entire management of cargo, supports Electronic Data Interface (EDI) messages with Indian Customs and replaces to a great extent existing paper correspondence between Customs, Airlines, and the custodians. This also replaces manual handling and binning of cargo at the warehouse in Mumbai by Air India.

Air India has also sent 6 of its Airbus A310-300 aircraft for a complete cargo conversion in Germany, this conversion is at a cost of $7 million each. With the arrival of first two converted freighter aircrafts, Air India has introduced scheduled services to Frankfurt and Paris. It has added two weekly cargo flights from Paris and five weekly flights from Frankfurt, with a total of 14 destinations involved.

In-flight experience

Air India has been refreshing its in flight product offering. This refresh includes a complete makeover of their current aircraft including updated interiors. These changes are being done to bring Air India up to the same standards as other International and private Indian carriers. Speculation is that Star Alliance will include Air India in the future.[9]. On their 747 aircraft, they have changed all the Business class, and Economy class seats. The business class seats are in a shell, which allows the seat to turn into a bed. These seats include a 18" PTV. The new economy seats are a deep orange colour with gold patterns on it and, with a 13" PTV. Air India has also placed a projector screen on the walls of each area of class, and also 2 TVs in the main walkway. The uniforms for crew members have also been changed.

Air India is also been noticed for its in flight meals in 1994 and 2003 with the Mercury Award for the finest in flight cuisine. One can choose from a variety of meals, such as an Indian vegetarian meal, a kosher meal, a low fat meal, and others.

Maharajah Lounges

Currently Air India offers 5 Lounges at five of its major destinations. These lounges are called the "Maharajah Lounge" translated this means, King's Lounge. The five lounges Air India offers to its First and Exceutive class passengers are:

Air India will add more lounges worldwide, once the merger is complete, and it offers more destinations worldwide.


Air India's livery is mostly painted in red and white colours. The bottoms of the aircraft remain metal and unpainted but the upper portion is given a white background along with the airline's name written in red. The name is in Hindi on one side and in English on the other. The painted on red palace style carvings on the outside of the windows refer to their slogan "your palace in the sky" which is written on the back of the aircraft. Near the noses of Air India aircraft, the air plane is given a name. Most planes are named after powerful Indian kings or landmarks. Finally, the tail is mostly red with again, the carrier's name written in Hindi on one side and English on the other.

As of January 2007, Air India has refreshed its livery, making the Rajasthani arches along the windows slightly smaller, extending a stylized cheatline from the vertical tail of the aircraft to the nose, and painting a small portion of the underbelly red. Additionally, engine nacelles are now deep red, and a gold-colored version of the airline's stylized centaur trademark now adorns both the vertical tail and engine nacelles. This livery can be seen on Air India's first 777-237/LR aircraft, registered VT-ALA. [5][6]

On May 15, 2007, the Government of India had released[10] the new livery and has been sent to Boeing in Seattle, USA to repaint all the new fleet coming into the new Air India. The design seen here[7] is a cross between the Air India and Indian Airlines livery. The new livery will be showcased to the world on July 17, 2007 on its new Boeing 777-200 and, when Air India and Indian Airlines formally become one airline, and Indian Airlines becomes known as Air India. The old fleet of both airlines will also slowly be painted in the new livery.

On May 22, 2007, the Government and Air India and Indian Airlines unveiled their new livery. The logo of the new airline is a Flying Swan with the Konark Chakra placed inside it. The Flying Swan has been morphed from Air India’s characteristic logo, ‘The Centaur’ whereas the ‘Konark Chakra’ is reminiscent of Indian’s logo.

The new logo will feature prominently on the tail of the aircraft. Individually the Konark Chakra will also feature on all the engines of the aircraft. The choice of colours namely red for “Flying Swan” and orange for “Konark Chakra” are meant to signify vigour and advancement. Further the colours also have a strong association with two carriers thereby retaining the earlier imagery of traditional hospitality and service.

While the aircraft will be ivory in colour, the base will retain the red streak of Air India. Running parallel to each other will be the Orange and Red speed lines from front door to the rear door, subtly signifying the individual identities merged into one. The brand name ‘Air India’ will run across the tail of the aircraft. The design of the new Air India can be seen here: [8]

The B777-237 in the new merged airline livery can be seen here [9] Also a view of an Indian Airline's A321 which will now be running as Air India [10].

Female pilots

There are 17 female pilots on Air India's rolls, including five trainee pilots. On the occasion of the International Women's Day, March 3, 2004, the airline operated an "All women Flight" from Mumbai to Singapore.[11] Capt. Rashmi Miranda, who became Air-India's first female Commander in November 2003 and Capt. Kshmata Bajpai, piloted the flight, an Airbus A310 aircraft. The flight despatch activities relating to this flight was also coordinated by a female Flight Dispatcher, Ms Vasanti Kolnad. The Safety Audit on board was also conducted by another woman, Ms Harpreet D. Singh.


The profitability of Air India as published in the 2004 annual report by Ministry of Civil Aviation with figures in millions of Indian Rupees.

Year Revenues Profit/(Loss)
1997 41,741 (1,810)
2003 63,220 923

Awards and recognition



Air India is often criticized for its bureaucracy regarding its flight operations. Despite a large workforce, operations are not organized as the customer service calls are often redirected through different executives from different departments. If the customers are based outside India and are calling the Air India offices in their respective countries, they might even be redirected to call or fax Air India officials in India.


  1. ^ Air India Express, Alliance Air to merge
  2. ^ Pierre Cardin to design A-I uniforms
  3. ^ "Indepth: Air India". CBC News. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
  4. ^ "Package grounds Air-India flight". The Globe and Mail. 2006-09-20. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Boeing, Air India Celebrate First 777-200LR Delivery". Boeing. 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2007-07-27. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ "Sukhoi to escort AI's new Boeings". Times of India. 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2007-07-27. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ "Air India May Buy 60 More Planes to Tap Travel Demand". 2007-07-28. Retrieved 2007-07-30. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ All-women crew on AI

See also