1 Yr Of Air India With Tata: Controversies Cloud Turnaround, Transformation
In the first year of its acquisition from the Centre, Air India not only took major steps in terms of turnaround and transformation, but also ran into major controversies on issues ranging from pilots' discontent to inept handling of certain sensitive matters.
After 69 years as a Government-owned enterprise, Air India and Air India Express were welcomed back into the Tata group on January 27, 2022.
Hailing its performance, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson on Friday said, "Taken together, the progress over the last 12 months has been nothing short of stunning, even if so much of what we have been working on has been behind the scenes, building platforms and capabilities so that our future ambitions can take flight. There is of course much more that needs to be done, and everyone - internally and externally - is hungry for us to do it," he said.
However, the Tata management courted its first set of controversies with the appointment of Ilker Ayci, a former Chairman of Turkish Airlines, as the CEO and MD of the airline in February, 2022. The appointment raised eyebrows with RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch expressing its reservations about the Tata Group appointing former Turkish Airlines chairman as Air India's Managing Director and CEO. Amid controversies, the appointment of Ilker Ayci could not last as he turned down the job.
Thereafter, Air India senior management faced discontent from senior pilots who protested on several issues ranging from ignoring the Indian pilots and hiring the foreign counterparts on hefty pay packages to alleged change in conditions of service of its member Pilots.
The Indian Commercial Pilot Association issued many notices demanding that the Air India management comply with the statutory mandate of the Industrial Disputes (ID) Act, including Section 9A, in letter and in spirit; and not undertake any change in the conditions of service of Pilots without following the applicable provisions of the ID Act.
The pilots' body also demanded to be involved, as representatives of the Pilots, in deliberations regarding any change in conditions of service before any precipitative steps are taken. It had said that it was important for the morale of the Pilots and for maintenance of trust between the Pilots and the Management of Air India Ltd., especially given the transition to the new management, that Pilots be consulted and taken into confidence before any condition of their service is changed, especially when such change may ultimately prove to be to their detriment.
Thereafter, the peeing incident on November 26 in the Air India New York- Delhi flight and mishandling of the issues emerging thereafter brought enough embarrassment to Tata so much so that the Air India CEO and Tata sons chairman had to issue statements. N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons and Air India on January 8 said that the airline's response to the incident on its New York-Delhi flight on November 26 should have been "much swifter". A day earlier, the Air India CEO had said that the airline could have handled the situation better.
The peeing incident brought much controversy and embarrassment coupled with action by the aviation regulator. Aviation regulator DGCA on January 20 imposed a fine of Rs 30 lakh on Air India and suspended the License of pilot-in-command for three months in the Air India peeing case which occurred on November 26, 2022. Moreover, the regulator also imposed a penalty of Rs 3 lakh on Director-in-flight services of Air India for failing to discharge duties.
In another case, the regulator DGCA imposed a Financial Penalty of Rs 10 lakh on Air India for not reporting the incidents which occurred on AI-142 Paris-New Delhi flight on December 6, 2022. Two incidents had occurred in the flight. While one passenger was caught smoking in the lavatory, was drunk and not adhering to the crew instructions; another allegedly relieved himself on a vacant seat and blanket of a fellow female passenger when she went to the lavatory.
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