|Founded||15 October 1932(as Tata Airlines)|
|Commenced operations||29 July 1946|
|Hubs||Indira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi)|
|Secondary hubs||Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (Mumbai)|
|Frequent-flyer program||Flying Returns|
|Fleet size||127 (excl. subsidiaries)|
|Parent company||Air India Limited (Tata Group)|
|Headquarters||Airlines House, Delhi, India|
|Revenue||₹26,430.59 crore (US$3.3 billion) (2019)|
|Operating income||₹−3,763.50 crore (US$−470 million) (2019)|
|Profit||₹−8,556.36 crore (US$−1.1 billion) (2019)|
|Total assets||₹52,352.18 crore (US$6.6 billion) (2019)|
|Total equity||₹−29,466.36 crore (US$−3.7 billion) (2019)|
|Employees||9,426 (November 2019)|
Air India is the flag carrier airline of India, headquartered at New Delhi. It is owned by Talace Private Limited, a Special-Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of Tata Sons, after Air India Limited's former owner, the Government of India, completed the sale. Air India operates a fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft serving 102 domestic and international destinations. The airline has its hub at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, alongside several focus cities across India. Air India is the largest international carrier out of India with an 18.6% market share. Over 60 international destinations are served by Air India across four continents. The airline became the 27th member of Star Alliance on 11 July 2014.
The airline was founded by J. R. D. Tata as Tata Airlines in 1932; Tata himself flew its first single-engine de Havilland Puss Moth, carrying air mail from Karachi's Drigh Road Aerodrome to Bombay's Juhu aerodrome and later continuing to Madras (currently Chennai). After World War II, it became a public limited company and was renamed as Air India. On 21 February 1960, it took delivery of its first Boeing 707 named Gauri Shankar and became the first Asian airline to induct a jet aircraft in its fleet. In 2000–01, attempts were made to privatise Air India and from 2006 onwards, it suffered losses after its merger with Indian Airlines. Another privatisation attempt was launched in 2017, which concluded with ownership of the airline and associated properties reverting to Tata in 2022.
Air India also operates flights to domestic and Asian destinations through its subsidiary Air India Express. Air India's mascot is the Maharajah (Emperor) and the logo consists of a flying swan with the wheel of Konark inside it.
Air India had its origin as Tata Air Services later renamed to Tata Airlines founded by J. R. D. Tata of Tata Sons, an Indian aviator and business tycoon. In April 1932, Tata won a contract to carry mail for Imperial Airways and the aviation department of Tata Sons was formed with two single-engine de Havilland Puss Moths. On 15 October 1932, Tata flew a Puss Moth carrying air mail from Karachi to Bombay (currently Mumbai) and the aircraft continued to Madras (currently Chennai) piloted by Nevill Vintcent, a former Royal Air Force pilot and friend of Tata. The airline fleet consisted of a Puss Moth aircraft and a de Havilland Leopard Moth. Initial service included weekly airmail service between Karachi and Madras via Ahmedabad and Bombay. In its first year of operation, the airline flew 160,000 miles (260,000 km), carrying 155 passengers and 9.72 tonnes (10.71 tons) of mail and made a profit of ₹60,000 (US$750).
The airline launched its first domestic flight from Bombay to Trivandrum with a six-seater Miles Merlin. In 1938, it was re-christened as Tata Air Services and later as Tata Airlines. Colombo in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Delhi were added to the destinations in 1938. During the Second World War, the airline helped the Royal Air Force with troop movements, shipping of supplies, rescue of refugees and maintenance of aircraft.
After 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. After Indian independence in 1947, 49% of the airline was acquired by the Government of India in 1948. On 8 June 1948, a Lockheed Constellation L-749A named Malabar Princess (registered VT-CQP) took off from Bombay bound for London Heathrow marking the airline's first international flight.
In 1953, the Government of India passed the Air Corporations Act and purchased a majority stake in the carrier from Tata Sons though its founder J. R. D. Tata would continue as Chairman till 1977. The company was renamed as Air India International Limited and the domestic services were transferred to Indian Airlines as a part of a restructuring. From 1948 to 1950, the airline introduced services to Nairobi in Kenya and to major European destinations Rome, Paris and Düsseldorf. The airline took delivery of its first Lockheed Constellation L-1049 and inaugurated services to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore.
On 21 February 1960, Air India International inducted its first Boeing 707-420, thereby becoming the first Asian airline to enter the Jet Age. The airline inaugurated services to New York on 14 May 1960. On 8 June 1962, the airline's name was officially truncated to Air India and on 11 June 1962, Air India became the world's first all-jet airline. In 1971, the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 747-200B named Emperor Ashoka (registered VT-EBD) and introduced a new Palace in the Sky livery and branding. In 1986, Air India took delivery of its first Airbus A310-300. In 1993, Air India took delivery of a Boeing 747-400 named Konark (registered VT-ESM) and operated the first non-stop flight between New York and Delhi.
In 2000–01, attempts were made to re-privatize Air India. In 2000, Air India introduced services to Shanghai, China. On 23 May 2001, the Ministry of Civil Aviation charged Michael Mascarenhas, the then-managing director, with corruption. According to the ministry reports, the airline lost approximately ₹570 million (US$7.1 million) because of extra commissions that Mascarenhas sanctioned and he was later suspended from the airline. In May 2004, Air India launched a wholly owned low cost subsidiary called Air-India Express connecting cities in India with the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Until 2007, Air India mainly operated on international long-haul routes while Indian Airlines operated on domestic and international short-haul routes.
In 2007, Air India and Indian Airlines were merged under Air India Limited and the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 777 aircraft. The airline was invited to be a part of the Star Alliance in 2007.
The combined losses for Air India and Indian Airlines in 2006–07 were ₹7.7 billion (US$96 million) and after the merger, it went up to ₹72 billion (US$900 million) by March 2009. In July 2009, State Bank of India was appointed to prepare a road map for the recovery of the airline. The carrier sold three Airbus A300 and one Boeing 747-300M in March 2009 for $18.75 million to finance the debt. By March 2011, Air India had accumulated a debt of ₹426 billion (US$5.3 billion) and an operating loss of ₹220 billion (US$2.8 billion), and was seeking ₹429 billion (US$5.4 billion) from the government. A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General blamed the decision to buy 111 new aircraft and the ill-timed merger with Indian Airlines for the poor financial situation. In August 2011, the invitation to join Star Alliance was suspended as a result of its failure to meet the minimum standards for the membership. The government pumped ₹32 billion (US$400 million) into Air India in March 2012.
On 1 March 2009, Air India made Frankfurt Airport its international hub for onward connections to the United States from India. However, the airline shut down the Frankfurt hub on 30 October 2010 because of high operating costs. In 2010, financially less lucrative routes were terminated and the airline planned to open a new hub for its international flights at Dubai. In 2012, a study commissioned by the Corporate Affairs Ministry recommended that Air India should be partly privatised. In May 2012, the carrier invited offers from banks to raise up $800 million via external commercial borrowing and bridge financing. In May 2012, the airline was fined $80,000 by the US Transportation Department for failing to post customer service and tarmac delay contingency plans on its website and adequately inform passengers about its optional fees.
In 2013, the then-Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh stated privatisation was the key to the airline's survival. However, the opposition led by the BJP and the CPI(M) slammed the government. In 2013, the Indian government planned to delay equity infusion of ₹300 billion (US$3.8 billion) that was slated to be infused into the airline slowly over a period of eight years. In January 2013, Air India cleared a part of its pending dues through funds raised by selling and leasing back the newly acquired Boeing 787 Dreamliners. In March 2013, the airline posted its first positive EBITDA after almost six years and 20% growth in its operating revenue since the previous financial year. Air India Limited split its engineering and cargo businesses into two separate subsidiaries, Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) and Air India Transport Services Limited (AITSL) in 2013. In December 2013, the airline appointed veteran pilot SPS Puri as its head of operations. The appointment was criticised by the Air India pilots union as Puri allegedly has multiple violations to his name.
Air India became the 27th member of the Star Alliance on 11 July 2014. In August 2015, it signed an agreement with Citibank and State Bank of India to raise $300 million in external commercial borrowing to meet working capital requirements. For FY 2014–15, its revenue, operating loss and net loss were ₹198 billion (US$2.5 billion), ₹2.171 billion (US$27 million), and ₹5.41 billion (US$68 million) compared FY 2011–12, which were ₹147 billion (US$1.8 billion), ₹5.138 billion (US$64 million), and ₹7.55 billion (US$95 million). As of May 2017, Air India is the third largest carrier in India (after IndiGo and Jet Airways), with a market share of 13%, but with the largest international network.
On 28 June 2017, the Government of India approved the privatisation of Air India. A committee has been set up to start the process. In March 2018, the Government issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) to sell 76% stake of Air India, along with low-cost airline Air India Express, and a 50% stake of AISATS, a ground handling joint venture with Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS). According to the EOI, the new owner would have to take on a debt of ₹33,392 crore (US$4.2 billion) and a bid would have to be submitted by mid-May as the Government wanted to complete the selling process by the end of 2018, but no private firms showed any interest in buying the debt-laden airline.
Having failed on previous occasions to sell the airline, the Government decided to sell 100% share of the airline and started its preparation in late-2019. On 27 January 2020, Government released the Expression of Interest (EOI) to invite bidders. This time the Government decided to sell 100% shares of both Air India and its budget carrier Air India Express as well as 50% shares of AISATS and to attract more bidders this time, the government has already decreased nearly ₹30,000 crore (US$3.8 billion) of debts and liabilities in a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).
In September 2021, government issued fresh tenders for selling the airlines, where Spice Jet's Ajay Singh-led consortium and Tata Sons shown interest in the bid. Finally, on 8 October 2021, Air India, along with its low cost carrier Air India Express and fifty percent of AISATS, a ground handling company, were sold for ₹18,000 crore (US$2.3 billion) to Talace Private Limited, a Tata Sons' SPV. On 27 January 2022, the airline was officially handed over to Tata Group.
On 14 February 2022, after its re-privatization, the airline appointed İlker Aycı, former Chairman of Turkish Airlines from 2015 to 2022 as its new CEO and Managing Director. He was supposed to take the charge on or before 1 April 2022, but declined the offer in the backdrop of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch demanding Tata Sons to rethink its decision and the government to show sensitivity since the matter involved national security issues. The company declined immediate comment on the issue. Later, in March 2022, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, the chairman of Tata Sons was appointed as the chairman of the airline. Later in May 2022, Tata Sons appointed Campbell Wilson as Air India's CEO and MD.
Air India Limited is headquartered at the Indian Airlines House, New Delhi. Air India moved its headquarters from Air India Building, Mumbai to Delhi in 2013. The former headquarters is a 23-storey tower on Marine Drive and was one of the targets of the 1993 Bombay bombings. Air India also maintains a corporate office on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan as well as numerous cargo offices worldwide.
Further information: Air India structure
Air India Regional was established as Alliance Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian Airlines on 1 April 1996 and started operations on 21 June 1996. It was renamed Air India Regional after the merger between Air India and Indian Airlines. Air India Express began operations on 29 April 2005 and was initially owned by Air India Charters. It operates flights from South India to the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Further information: Air India Cargo
Air India became the first Asian airline to operate freighters when Air India Cargo was set up in 1954 and started its freighter operations with a Douglas DC-3 aircraft. Air India Cargo ended freighter aircraft operations in early 2012.
Air India's mascot is the Maharajah (high king). It was created by Bobby Kooka, the then-commercial director of Air India, and Umesh Rao, an artist with J. Walter Thompson Limited in 1946. Kooka stated that, "We call him a Maharajah for want of a better description. But his blood isn't blue. He may look like royalty, but he isn't royal". Air India adopted the Maharajah as its mascot in 1946. It was used in promoting it although initially designed only for the airline's memo-pads. The Maharajah was given a makeover in 2015 and the brand is represented by a younger version.
Air India's colour scheme is red and white. The aircraft were painted in white with red palace style carvings on the outside of the windows and the airline's name written in red. The name is written in Hindi on the port side fuselage and in English on the port side tail. On the starboard side fuselage, the name is written in English, and in Hindi on the starboard tail. The window scheme was designed in line with the slogan Your Palace in the Sky. The aircraft were earlier named after Indian kings and landmarks. In 1989, to supplement its Flying Palace livery, Air India introduced a new livery that included a metallic gold spinning wheel on a deep red-coloured tail and a Boeing 747, Rajendra Chola, was the first aircraft to be painted in the new colours.
The first logo of Air India was a centaur, a stylised version of Sagittarius shooting an arrow in a circle representing the wheel of Konark. The logo chosen by founder J. R. D. Tata was introduced in 1948 and represented the airline until 2007. On 22 May 2007, Air India and Indian Airlines unveiled their new livery consisting of a Flying Swan with the wheel of Konark placed inside it. The flying swan was morphed from the centaur logo and the chakra was derived from Indian's erstwhile logo. On 15 May 2007, Air India refreshed its livery, making the Rajasthani arches along the windows slightly smaller, extending a stylised line from the tail of the aircraft to the nose and painting the underbelly red. The new logo features on the tail and the engine covers with red and orange lines running parallel to each other from the front door to the rear door.
Air India built a collection of Indian art from 1956 to the mid 2000s. The collection comprises works of important Indian artists and photographers of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, sculptures, wood carvings, glass paintings, a large collection of rare textiles, and more. Among the works are paintings by M. F. Husain and V. S. Gaitonde and sketches by Goan cartoonist Mario Miranda. Some of the company's first purchases helped launch the career of notable painter B. Prabha. The artwork was often sent to be hung in Air India booking offices around the world and used in menus and advertising material. Sometimes artists would be sent to paint murals in foreign offices or be given airplane tickets in exchange for art. In 1967, the company commissioned ashtrays from Salvador Dalí and gifted a few hundred of them to its first-class passengers. As payment, Dali asked for a baby elephant, which Air India flew from Bangalore to Geneva, along with a mahout. In the late 2010s, a plan to form a museum from the collection was stalled by privatization plans. The artworks reside in a building in Nariman Point, Mumbai.
Main article: List of Air India destinations
As of December 2019, Air India flies to a total of 102 destinations including 57 domestic destinations and 45 international destinations in 31 countries across five continents around the world. Its primary hub is located at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, and it has a secondary hub at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai.
Air India became the 27th member of Star Alliance on 11 July 2014.
In February 2022, two weeks after its privatization, the airline signed an interline pact with AirAsia India, a low-cost airline owned by Tata Group, for domestic flights.
Air India has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:
Note that codeshare operations have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Main article: Air India fleet
In 1932, Air India started operations with a de Havilland Puss Moth. It inducted its first Boeing 707-420 named Gauri Shankar (registered VT-DJJ), thereby becoming the first Asian airline to induct a jet aircraft in its fleet and on 4 August 1993, Air India took the delivery of its first Boeing 747-400 named Konark (registered VT-ESM). Apart from the Boeing aircraft, Air India also operates a wide range of Airbus aircraft. In 1989, Indian Airlines introduced the Airbus A320-200 aircraft, which Air India now uses to operate both domestic and international short haul flights. In 2005, Indian Airlines introduced smaller A319s, which are now used mainly on domestic and regional routes. After the merger in 2007, Air India inducted the biggest member of the A320 family, the A321, to operate mainly on international short haul and medium haul routes. At the same time, Air India leased Airbus A330s to operate on medium-long haul international routes. Currently Air India has many narrow body aircraft for domestic destinations like A320, A321 and A320 neo. Air India has also many wide body aircraft like Boeing 777-200LR, Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 787-8 mainly for international destinations. Air India Express, a subsidiary of Air India has a fleet of 25 Boeing 737-800. On 17 June 2019, Air India grounded its last Airbus A320 classic fleet, which flown its last flight from Delhi to Mumbai.
As a part of the financial restructuring, Air India sold five of its eight Boeing 777-200LR aircraft to Etihad Airways in December 2013. According to the airline, plans for introducing ultra-long flights with service to Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were cancelled due to factors like high fuel prices and weak demand. Air India flights to San Francisco have been resumed with more new international destinations. On 24 April 2014, Air India issued a tender for leasing 14 Airbus A320 aircraft for up to six years, to strengthen its domestic network. Air India has purchased many Boeing 787-8 dreamliners to strengthen international operations.
The Boeing 777-200LR/777-300ER and Boeing 747-400 aircraft operated on long haul flights are in a three-class configuration. Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A321 aircraft have a two-class configuration. Airbus A320 aircraft operated on domestic- and short haul international flights are in either an all-economy configuration or a two-class configuration. Airbus A319 aircraft have a full economy configuration. Air India serves meals on all international flights and on domestic flights with a flight duration of over 90 minutes.
Air India aircraft are equipped with Thales i3000 in-flight entertainment system. Passengers can choose from five channels airing Hindi and English content. Air India's Boeing 777, 747 and 787 aircraft are also equipped with personal on demand in-flight entertainment systems on which passengers can choose from available content. Showtime is the official entertainment guide published by Air India. Shubh Yatra (meaning Happy Journey) is a bilingual in-flight magazine published in English and Hindi by Air India.
Flying Returns is Air India's frequent-flyer programme. It is shared by Air India and its subsidiaries. The points can be redeemed for awards travel on some other airlines.
The Maharaja Lounge (English: Emperor's Lounge) is available for the use of First and Business class passengers. Air India shares lounges with other international airlines at international airports that do not have a Maharaja Lounge available. There are eight Maharaja Lounges:
The airline entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by civil airliner. Over 111,000 people were evacuated from Amman to Mumbai, a distance of 4,117 kilometres (2,558 mi), by operating 488 flights from 13 August to 11 October 1990 – lasting 59 days. The operation was carried out during Persian Gulf War to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait and Iraq. The event was later featured in the film Airlift.
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