Making News as some say is an art. Air India seems to have earned a doctorate in making news albeit for all wrong reasons.
The recent news that made it big and needed intervention from the government was the pilots going on Strike to protest pay cuts.
The strike led to furor and caused the already ailing Air India to lose millions in cancelled flights. More than the monetary loss, Air India got its share of bad publicity. Need I say this that bad publicity in the Airline business is never good, specially in the Indian subcontinent with cut throat competition. As if the the strike was not enough, Air India staff has ensured that Air India stays in the news and this time for reasons that are all the more worrisome.
Another incident, where Air India pilot and the co-pilot onboard the flight from Sharjah to Delhi, got into a mid-air scuffle with a young air hostess and other cabin crew. The incident has fuelled enough rumors for the media to get active.
According to a Business Week report, the airhostess was assaulted by pilots and pushed out of the cockpit. What supposedly happened after that is really shocking!!
Presumably, the pilots followed the air hostess into the passenger cabin leaving the cockpit unarmed. Air India has however denied the claim and the actual details are yet to clarified.
Without delving on whether the pilots actually left the cockpit putting the lives of passengers at stake, IMO it is only true that rumours also have some element of truth behind them. If the pilots did leave the cockpit leaving the aircraft at the mercy of god knows who, the issue hardly remains a matter of Assault on a colleague, it becomes a grievous Security Issue.
Air India has come out and promised a "regular department inquiry" to get to the depth of the matter. But, will the airline be able to restore its lost reputation and customers faith in flying Air India. I have my doubts.
On top of all this, Air India has been bleeding badly and talks are on with the government to bail it out. Yes,the airline sector as a whole is suffering. Being a government backed airline, it is government’s responsibility to ensure that Air India survives.
But, does that give Air India the right to act like a spoiled brat like it is. Even if the employees are at fault, it is the management’s responsibility to ensure decorum and ethics.
Air India has been doing all it can to dig itself deeper into the grave. What with a strike, rat on board , a fire and now a assault/safety crisis. Even if we forget the losses of the airline, these kind of incidents are truly a matter of national shame for the Air India brand has been synonymous with "Carrier of India" before the private carriers made inroads.
For all the news that Air India that it has made, I just have one question in my mind
Should the government actually bail the airline out with the taxpayers money??
The government cannot just give millions of rupees to bail out the airline and hope that the airline will get its act together. The way I see it, given the theatrics I am skeptical if the existing management has crossed the line which is beyond correction.
Why can’t the government work on a partnership / stake sale model which can help bring a seasoned management team on board Air India. Drastic measures are needed to get the airline out of the grave and money is definitely not going to do any good.
The Air India Brand is near destruction and strict measures are needed to restore the public’s faith in the airline. The sarkari babu type operations are not going to help re-build the image.
On a humorous note,
If the above rumours turn out to be true and the cockpit was left unmanned, Will the government officials (mandated to travel Air India) will be willing to put their lives on stake :)
[This post has been written by Ankit Agarwal, an ERP Consultant by profession, a wannabe entrepreneur and stock market stalker by passion]