On Saturday, Air India Flight 812 crashed shortly after takeoff from the Mangalore airport, killing 160 people. The problem here is more than just one crash, but rather a systemic failure of Air India as an organization to sustain a professional business operation in the airline industry:
Air India, a former monopoly with an aging fleet and a poor on-time record, has struggled in recent years to compete with lower-cost private airlines as the industry has been deregulated. Air India Express, its low-cost arm, is part of its effort to respond to a changing competitive landscape as it struggles under a $3.3-billion debt load.
In October, the airline hit the headlines after pilots and a flight crew got into a fistfight in front of startled passengers.
The state-owned airline has had several mishaps over the years. Safety expert Mohan Ranganathan, a former Air India pilot, said recently that India badly needs an independent regulator and safety board.
In June 2008, Air India Flight IC-162 from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, overshot the Mumbai airport by 45 miles after its pilots fell asleep. They were jolted awake when air traffic controllers caused a loud buzzer to go off in the cockpit.
Flights from Dubai to other parts of India tend to be crowded with Indians returning from manual labor and service jobs in the Middle East, as well as with high-tech professionals and traders.
In essence, Air India exemplifies every bad stereotype about Indian corruption and incompetence. Having flown out of Mumbai in the past year, I can attest to the utter lack of professionalism and attention by the Indian airline industry.
I completely agree with Manish at Ultrabrown: Air India needs to die:
The best thing that could happen to Air India, a flag carrier treated as both sinecure and dumping ground by countless babus, is to get blacklisted internationally as an unsafe carrier. Because being banned from leaving the country might be the kick in the ass they need.
Air India needs to be taken private like Tata’s original airline. It needs to shed reams of unproductive employees and rebuild its training procedures from ground up. India as a whole needs an effective, independent aviation regulator.
I will not fly Air India nor permit my family to fly it, ever again.