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Monday, March 27, 2023

How Is Air India’s Turnaround Going?

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It’s been just over a year since the Tata Group won the bid for Air India, so how is the carrier doing today?

It’s been just over a year since the Tata Group was confirmed as the new owners of Air India, capping over a near two-year process to private the loss-making flag carrier. Let’s take a look at what the airline has achieved in the time since, and where it plans to go next.

Change in outlook

Before jumping into the specifics, the Tata’s have certainly breathed new life into Air India. The loss-making carrier has gone from looking hopeless to an airline that could well become a flagship long-haul one in the next few years. This change in outlook is notable, and critical to restoring customer trust in the future.


As expected, Tata has been reducing the total staff at Air India with voluntary retirement schemes. This has been successful, with 4,500 staffers parting from the airline, from a total of over 13,000. Another round could be around the corner according to reports, helping streamline costs.

Air India Cabin Crew

Photo: Getty Images

While definitely difficult, bringing in a new set of staffers, from top to bottom, will be crucial to turning around Air India in the next few years. At the same time, recruitement for the carrier has seen massive excitement, a sign that many fresh faces are excited to join the carrier at this pivotal moment.

In terms of numbers, Air India’s domestic market share has slipped from 10.2% in January to 7.2% in May and back up to 9.2% in September. However, it’s on-time performance has become the best in the country, an impressive feat that highlights a shift in strategy. With a lofty goal of 30% domestic market share in five years, expect to see more competition soon.

Despite all the major headlines, changes onboard have been slow to come, as can be expected in a large organization. I had the chance to fly Air India from Delhi to Dubai in late August, onboard one of the workhorse Boeing 787-8s. While the booking experience, website services, and ground experience was extremely smooth, the inflight product still lags behind the competition.

For starters, the inflight entertainment on my seat, a bulkhead economy row, was broken. Catering presentation hadn’t improved much either, with economy meals nowhere near the new menus unveiled in recent months, but still tasted fine (a step up!). However, fixing an airline that has been neglected for over a decade won’t be an overnight process, and Air India’s management has acknowledged that it plans to repair all broken hardware in the next few months.

The next few months will be an important test for Tata’s Air India: can they apply a band aid that will hold long enough until a new set of aircraft can be inducted. The reality remains that passengers must see change soon in order to believe that the carrier can turn itself around, and while there have been clear green shoots, there has to be consistency as well.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the takeover was seen in Air India’s latest aircraft order for 30 planes. This will consist of five Boeing 777-200LRs, enabling new long-haul routes, and 25 Airbus narrowbodies, four A321s and 21 A320s. We won’t be waiting too long for these planes either, with the first widebody set to arrive before years-end and the narrowbodies all joining in 2023.

Overall, Air India’s first year under the Tata’s has been a positive one. While a delay in appointing a CEO slowed things down, since then, we have seen a complete overhaul of customer service, new applications, improved catering (rolling out slowly), and more aircraft. Now, maintaining this momentum will be important and bringing consistenty to the product will be key test in 2023.

What do you think about Air India’s progress in the last year? Let us know in the comments!

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