Just about 90 years after establishing India’s first airline, the Tata Group has now taken over the reins of Air India from the Indian Government this Thursday.

“The Air India strategic disinvestment transaction has been completed with the government receiving Rs 2,700 crore from Talace,” a finance ministry statement read, referring to the shift of 100 percent of Air India shares into Talace Pvt. Ltd. ownership, a subsidiary of Tata Sons.

This reflects a total of Rs 18,000 crores, making it one of the biggest buyout bids to ever rock India’s business landscape. Along with a corpus of over 10,000 employees, the Tatas will be handling the business entities of Air India itself, the budget airline Air India Express, and the ground handling unit Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt. Ltd. As one of the largest shifts ever conducted in the airline industry, Tata certainly has its work cut out for it. That said, does the revolutionary company aim to rebuild and revamp the problem-plagued national carrier for 2022? Here’s what they’ve got in store:

 

  1.  A Tata Family Homecoming

    Ratan Tata poses alongside Air India crew, circa 1970.

Not every change has to be purely operations-related. For the Tatas, reclaiming Air India is a matter of personal pride. Did you know that Air India’s very first flight in 1932 was flown by J.R.D. Tata himself, as an air-mail drop from Karachi to Bombay? The airline was nationalized in 1953, and while it has become something of a national icon, it eventually developed a reputation for saddling debt and providing sub-par service (something the Tatas are keen to turn around) according to a letter penned by Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran, addressed to all Air India employees

“From the day of the announcement, one word has been on everyone’s lips: homecoming. We are proud to welcome Air India back into the Tata family, after all these years,” he wrote.

“Such memories are wonderful, but now is the time to look ahead. Today is the beginning of a new chapter. The entire nation’s eyes are on us, waiting to see what we will achieve together. To build the airline our country needs, we need to look to the future.” Heralding a ‘golden age’ for the airline, Chandrasekaran made it clear that standards were going to improve, and big changes are in the pipeline for Air India’s future as a re-privatized company.

 

  1. Enhanced Meal Service

    A crew member poses with an Air India vegetarian meal.

The Chairman wasn’t kidding. Right from day one, major changes were announced to the passenger flight experience. Airline food can be questionable, and the company is looking to turn this around immediately. This comes in the form of ‘enhanced meal service’ upgrades that the airline will phase in this week for Mumbai flights bound for Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Bengaluru, and Newark.

 

  1. Upgrading Cabin Crew Standards

    Air India cabin crew pose for a photograph.

Air travel hospitality is a major industry across the world and a big part of why customers prefer certain airlines over others. Maintaining top standards of service is a big priority for Tata Group, which stated that a change in the ‘image, attitude and perception’ of Air India is key, going ahead. To ensure this, cabin crew members have been given detailed instructions on how to ensure safety and service standards are provided. This includes everything from addressing customers as ‘guests’ to ensuring world-class grooming standards for all crew members. The new management is not taking this lightly; they have employed ‘grooming executives’ to conduct checks at airports, according to Tata Group.

 

  1. Improving Efficiency and Timeliness

    An Air India flight touches down at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru.

One of the biggest problems with Air India’s workforce was a high reputation for subpar time management. Several customers grew frustrated with the airline regularly postponing flights at the last moment, as staff scrambled to handle preflight requirements. Since on-time schedules are extremely important for a successful airline business, a strict deadline has been enforced; crew members will have to ensure that doors are closed and all preparations are in place 10 minutes before the flight’s departure.

 

  1. Government Ties

    Tata Chairman N. Chandrasekaran meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
    Image Credit: PMO

While all airline companies were hit hard by the pandemic, Air India, which has been underperforming for over a decade, was absolutely demolished, racking up a staggering amount of debt in recent times.

The Tatas have taken over Rs 15,300 crore already. The remaining debt of Rs 45,262 crore along with the Rs 15,000 crore in pending fuel bills, were handed over to the government. Meanwhile, an SBI-led consortium of lenders has agreed to provide loans to Tata Group. Chairman Chandrasekaran also met with Prime Minister Modi prior to the deal’s announcement to ensure a smooth transition.

 

Featured Image Credit: Tata Group, Air India

Image Credits: Tata Group, Air India, PMO