March 24, 2023

Air India takes off on long haul to revival – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Air India flights started operating under the Tata banner from Friday after nearly seven decades. Getting the most suitable buyer means the debt-laden airline has avoided a shutdown like Kingfisher or Jet Airways. But what does it mean for passengers?
This TOI reporter took the Friday morning Delhi-Mumbai flight to find out and ended up realising why most great romantic movies usually end with the lovelorn couple tying the knot after much trouble: because reality dawns subsequently and success lies in making the tie-up work.
In Air India’s case, too, the euphoria — relief, rather — of the Tatas taking over the airline gave way to a reality check while preparing to travel on AI 665 late Thursday night. The ticket purchased via a leading travel portal did not mention the Delhi airport terminal.
A struggle to survive in the past few years meant AI had no funds for the upkeep of its now-ageing aircraft interiors. Lumbar support for the back cushion is poor, and the covers on the seat tops hide the non-functional inflight entertainment screens.
The change of ownership started becoming visible in the “software”. Aircraft doors were closed on time. Captain Varun Khandelwal’s pre-departure welcome inflight announcement was about the “aitihasik… flight into the future of AI” (as a Tata Group airline). He and first officer Dipali Pratape emphasised on the flight taking off five minutes before time in Delhi and an earlier-than-scheduled arrival in Mumbai.
Perhaps AI 665 hadn’t made it to the list of flights that are supposed to get an enhanced meal service on a staggered basis. The serving was the old but generous bun, muffin, strawberry yogurt, hot idli-upma in sambar and tea/coffee, apart from condiments. The hostess happily gave another bun and butter, which was among the more delectable items on the tray.
Clearly Tatas realises the uphill, capital-intensive and long-drawn task ahead in terms of reviving the airline. That’s why they have not raised expectations by creating a hype and opting for a trademark low-key takeover.

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