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Air India

Air India
Founded July 1930 (as Tata Airlines)
Commenced operations 15 October 1932 (1932-10-15)
Secondary hubs
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer program Flying Returns
Airport lounge Maharaja Lounge
Alliance Star Alliance[1]
Fleet size 100 (30 on orders)(excluding subsidiaries)[2]
Destinations 90
Company slogan Your Palace in the Sky
Parent company Air India Limited
Headquarters Indian Airlines House
Parliament Street, New Delhi
Delhi, India.[3]
Key people JRD Tata (Founder)
Rohit Nandan, IAS (CEO)
Syed Nasir Ali, IRS(JMD)
Revenue Increase 143 billion (US$2.3 billion) (FY 2013/14)[4]
Operating income Increase 192 billion (US$3.1 billion) (FY 2013/14)[4]
Net income Decrease 21 billion (US$340 million) (FY 2013/14)[4]
Employees 23,044 (July 2014)

Air India is the flag carrier airline of India owned by Air India Limited (AIL), a Government of India enterprise. It is the third largest airline in India (after IndiGo and Jet Airways) in domestic market share, and operates a fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft serving various domestic and international airports. It is headquartered at the Indian Airlines House in New Delhi.[3] Air India has two major domestic hubs at Indira Gandhi International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, and secondary hubs at Chennai International Airport and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata. The airline formerly operated a hub at Frankfurt Airport which was terminated on account of high costs.[5] However, another international hub is being planned at the Dubai International Airport.[6]

Air India was once the largest operator in the Indian subcontinent with a market share of over 60%.[7] Indifferent financial performance and service, labor trouble pushed it to fourth place in India, behind low cost carriers like IndiGo, SpiceJet, and its full service rival Jet Airways. Between September 2007 and May 2011, Air India's domestic market share declined from 19.2% to 14%, primarily because of stiff competition from private Indian carriers.[8][9] However, after financial restructuring and enforcement of strict rules and regulations, the airlines showed signs of turning around. In March 2013, the airlines posted its first positive EBITDA after almost 6 years.[10] The airlines bolstered its financial and physical performance with a 44 per cent slash in its operating losses in 2013-14 and an almost 20 per cent growth in its operating revenue since the previous financial year.[11] As of January 2014, Air India is the third largest carrier in India, after IndiGo and Jet Airways with a market share of just above 19%.[12]

The airline was invited to be a part of the Star Alliance in 2007.[13] Air India completed the merger with Indian Airlines and some part of the agreed upgrades in its service and membership systems by 2011. In August 2011, Air India's invitation to join Star Alliance was suspended as a result of its failure to meet the minimum standards for the membership.[14] However, in October 2011, talks between the airline and Star Alliance resumed.[15] On 13 December 2013, Star Alliance announced that Air India and the alliance have resumed the integration process[16] and the airline became the 27th member of Star Alliance on 11 July 2014.[1]


  • History 1
    • Early years (1932-1945) 1.1
    • Post-war expansion and jet age (1946-1999) 1.2
    • Proposed Privatization, expansion and merger (2000-2007) 1.3
    • Financial unrest (2007-2011) 1.4
    • Financial restructuring and turnaround plans (2011-present) 1.5
  • Corporate affairs and identity 2
    • Organisation 2.1
    • Subsidiaries 2.2
  • Involvement in Sports 3
  • Destinations 4
    • Codeshare agreements 4.1
    • Traffic 4.2
  • Fleet 5
    • Current 5.1
    • Aircraft operated 5.2
    • Livery 5.3
  • Services 6
    • Cabin 6.1
    • In-flight entertainment 6.2
    • Frequent flyer programme 6.3
    • Online check-in 6.4
    • Premium lounges 6.5
  • Awards and recognitions 7
  • Criticism and controversy 8
  • Accidents and incidents 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Tata Air Services
1940s–2007 Air India logo
Air India Douglas DC-3 at London Heathrow Airport in July, 1958
Air India International Lockheed Constellation Bengal Princess at London Airport in 1953
Air India Boeing 707-320B in 1976

Early years (1932-1945)

Tata Sons, a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group) was founded by J. R. D. Tata in 1932. [17][18] The aviator Nevill Vintcent had an idea to run mail flights from Bombay and Colombo that connected with the Imperial Airways flights from the United Kingdom. He found a supporter for his plans from J. R. D. Tata of the Tata Iron and Steel Company. After three years of negotiations Vintcent and Tata won a contract to carry the mail in April 1932 and in July 1932 the Aviation Department of Tata Sons was formed. On 15 October 1932, J.R.D. Tata flew a single-engined De Havilland Puss Moth carrying air mail (postal mail of Imperial Airways) from Karachi's Drigh Road Aerodrome to Bombay's Juhu Airstrip via Ahmedabad. The aircraft continued to Madras via Bellary piloted by Vintcent.[19] Tata Airlines initially consisted of one Puss Moth aircraft, one Leopard Moth, one palm-thatched shed, one whole time pilot assisted by Tata and Vintcent, one part-time engineer and two apprentice-mech[20][21] According to The New York Times, Tata Air Mail made a profit of 60,000 rupees its first year, and by 1937, that profit had risen to 600,000 rupees.[22]

Initial service included weekly airmail service with a Puss Moth aircraft between Karachi and Madras via Ahmedabad and Bombay, covering over 1,300 miles. In its very first year of operation, Tata Airlines flew 160,000 miles, carrying 155 passengers and 10.71 ton of mail.[23] In the next few years, Tata Airlines continued to rely for its revenue on the mail contract with the Government of India for carriage of surcharged mail, including a considerable quantity of overseas mail brought to Karachi by Imperial Airways. The same year, Tata Airlines launched its longest domestic flight – Bombay to Trivandrum with a six-seater Miles Merlin.[24] In 1938, it was re-christened as Tata Air Services and later same year was renamed as Tata Airlines. By this time Delhi and Colombo were also serviced.[19]

Post-war expansion and jet age (1946-1999)

After World War II, regular commercial service was restored in India, and Tata Airlines became a public limited company on 29 July 1946 under the name Air India. In 1948, after the independence of India, 49% of the airline was acquired by the Government of India, with an option to purchase an additional 2%. In return the airline was granted status to operate international services from India as the designated flag carrier under the name Air India International. On 8 June 1948 a Lockheed Constellation L-749A named Malabar Princess (registered VT-CQP) took off from Bombay bound for London Heathrow via Cairo and Geneva. This was the airline's first long-haul international flight, soon followed by service in 1950 to Nairobi via Aden. On 25 August 1953 the Government of India exercised its option to purchase a majority stake in the carrier and Air India International Limited was born as one of the fruits of the Air Corporations Act that nationalised the air transportation industry. At the same time all domestic services were transferred to Indian Airlines (now a part of Air India). In 1954, the airline took delivery of its first L-1049 Super Constellations and inaugurated services to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore.

Air India International entered the jet age on 21 February 1960 when its first Boeing 707–420, named Gauri Shankar (registered VT-DJJ), was delivered, thereby becoming the first Asian airline to induct a jet aircraft in its fleet.[25][26] Jet services to JFK International Airport in New York City via London were inaugurated that same year on 14 May 1960. On 8 June 1962, the airline's name was officially truncated to Air India. On 11 June 1962, Air India became the world's first all-jet airline. In 1971, the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 747-200B named Emperor Ashoka (registered VT-EBD). This coincided with the introduction of the 'Palace in the Sky' livery and branding. A feature of this livery is the paintwork around each aircraft window, in the cusped arch style of windows in Indian palaces. In 1986 Air India took delivery of the Airbus A310-300; the airline is the largest operator of this type in passenger service. In 1988, Air India took delivery of two Boeing 747-300Ms in mixed passenger-cargo configuration. In 1993, Air India took delivery of the flagship of its fleet when the first Boeing 747-400 named Konark (registered VT-ESM) made history by operating the first non-stop flight between New York City and Delhi. In 1994 the airline was registered as Air India Ltd. In 1996, the airline inaugurated service to its second US gateway at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. In 1999, the airline opened its dedicated Terminal 2-C at the renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.

Proposed Privatization, expansion and merger (2000-2007)

In 2000-01, there were attempts to re-privatize Air India to improve services, but in 2001 Singapore Airlines pulled out of the bidding process and the global economy slumped.[27][28][29][30] With the fall of the BJP-led NDA government in 2004, these attempts were shelved. In 2000, Air India introduced services to Shanghai and to its third U.S. gateway at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. In May 2004, Air India launched a wholly owned low cost airline called Air-India Express. Air India Express connecting cities in India with the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. In 2004 Air India launched flights to its fourth US gateway at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles (which has since been terminated) and expanded its international routes to include flights from Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. On 1 December 2009, Air India introduced services to its fifth U.S. gateway at Washington Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., accessed via a stopover at JFK Airport in New York City.

Until 2007, Air India and Indian Airlines operated as two completely different airlines, though completely owned by the government of India. Air India mainly operated on International long-haul routes while Indian Airlines operated on domestic and international short-haul routes. Both airlines had different fleet expansion and retirement plans. In 2007, the government decided to bring both the airlines, including Air India Express and Indian Airlines' low cost subsidiary Alliance Air under the control one body.[31]

National Aviation Company of India Limited
Air India
Air India Express
Air India Cargo
Air India Charters Limited
Air India Air Transport Services
Alliance Air

The Government of India announced that Air India would be merged with Indian Airlines. As part of the merger process, a new company called the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), now called Air India Limited was established as the holding company for Air India and its subsidiaries. In February 2011, the merger came into effect.

Air India Limited
Air India
Air India Express
Air India Regional

Financial unrest (2007-2011)

Around 2006–2007, the airlines began showing signs of financial distress. The combined losses for Air India and Indian Airlines in 2006–07 were 7.7 billion (US$120 million). After the merger of the airlines, it went up to 72 billion (US$1.2 billion) by March 2009.[32] This was followed by restructuring plans which are still in progress.[33] In July 2009, SBI Capital Markets was appointed to prepare a road map for the recovery of the airline.[34] The carrier sold three Airbus A300 and one Boeing 747-300M in March 2009 for $18.75 million to survive the financial crunch.[35] By March 2011, Air India had accumulated a debt of 425.7 billion (US$6.9 billion) and an operating loss of 220 billion (US$3.6 billion), and was seeking 429.2 billion (US$7.0 billion) crore from the government.[36] For three months (June–August 2011), the carrier missed salary payments and interest payments and Moody’s Investor Service warned that missing payments by Air India to creditors, such as the State Bank of India, will negatively impact the credit ratings of those banks.[36][37] A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) blamed the decision to buy 111 new planes as one of the major causes of the debt troubles in Air India; in addition, it blamed on the ill timed merger with Indian Airlines as well.[38][39]

Financial restructuring and turnaround plans (2011-present)

On 1 March 2009, Air India had made Frankfurt Airport at Frankfurt am Main as its international hub for onward connections to United States from India; however, the airline shut down the Frankfurt hub on 30 October 2010 because of high operating costs. Instead, the new Terminal 3 at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport was made the hub for international and domestic operations with the launch of new non-stop flights to Chicago (USA) and Toronto (Canada) Almost all international long-haul flights were moved to Delhi to streamline passenger movements and reduce operating costs.[40] Financially less lucrative routes were terminated including the non-stop service to Toronto. The airline also plans to open a new hub for its international flights at UAE's Dubai International Airport. Few aircraft orders were changed to get more narrow-body aircraft instead of the wide-body aircraft.[41]

In 2012, a study commissioned by the Corporate Affairs Ministry recommended that Air India should be partly privatized.[42] In 2013, the then Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh stated privatization was the key to the airline's survival.[43] However, the opposition lead by the BJP and the CPI(M) slammed the Government.[44]

In April 2009, due to high fuel and loan costs, the Indian government pumped 32 billion (US$520 million) into Air India and in March 2012 the government bailed out Air India Ltd. with a grant of 67.5 billion (US$1.1 billion).[45] As of May 2012 the carrier invited offers from banks to raise up $800 million via external commercial borrowing and bridge financing.[46] In 2013, the Indian government planned to delay equity infusion of 300 billion (US$4.9 billion) that was slated to be infused into the airline slowly over a period of eight years. Plans were changed as the government then planned to spread it over a longer period of time as part of measures to bring down the economy's financial deficit. The original plan was to pump in some 300 billion (US$4.9 billion) into the airline in 2013, while less than half of that amount was mentioned in the annual budget.[47]

In January 2013, Air India paid GMR Group a sum of 4.15 billion (US$67 million) towards outstanding dues on account of charges related to the airports at Hyderabad and Delhi. Of the amount paid, 3.4 billion (US$55 million) was paid to clear the user development fee (UDF), airport development fee (ADF) and landing and parking charges at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. The remaining 750 million (US$12 million) was paid to clear similar fees at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad.[48] In order to raise funds for reconstruction, Air India decided to sell and lease back its aircraft, including the newly acquired Boeing 787 Dreamliners.[49] In March 2013, the airline posted its first positive EBITDA after almost 6 years.[10] The airlines bolstered its financial and physical performance with a 44 per cent slash in its operating losses in 2013-14 and an almost 20 per cent growth in its operating revenue since the previous financial year.[11] As of January 2014, Air India is the third largest carrier in India, after IndiGo and Jet Airways with a market share of just above 19%.[12]

Corporate affairs and identity

The Air India Building, Nariman Point, Mumbai
One of Air India's Boeing 747-400 aircraft, used during the president's trip to Madrid as Air India One.


The Air India registered office and headquarters is in the Indian Airlines House in New Delhi.[50] Air India has three subsidiaries. Together Air India, Air India Cargo, Air India Express, and Air India Regional form the Air India Limited.

Air India Building

The Air India Building is a 23-storey commercial tower on Marine Drive in Nariman Point, Mumbai, India. The building served as the corporate headquarters for the airline till 2013. The Air India Building was completed in 1974, and is owned by the airline. It occupies one of Mumbai's choicest real estate locations in Nariman Point. Located on Marine Drive, facing the Arabian Sea, the building is a landmark on Mumbai's skyline with the airline's trademark centaur icon on its top. The centrally air-conditioned building was the first in India to have an escalator, carrying customers from the street-level to the airline's main booking office.[51] It initially had 30 companies as tenants, now it has only 2.[52]

The building was one of the targets of the 1993 Bombay bombings. A car bomb exploded in the afternoon on 12 March 1993 in the basement garage of the building.[53] Almost 20 people were killed in the attack and the offices of the Bank of Oman just above the garage were destroyed. Security has since been significantly tightened at the building. In February 2013, Air India officially vacated the building as part of its asset-monetisation plan, and shifted its corporate office to New Delhi. The Indian Airlines House was chosen as the airline's new headquarters. However, the airline still retains three floors in the building.[3]

Air India One

Air India One (also referred to as AI-1[54] or AIC001) is the call sign of any Air India aircraft carrying the Prime Minister of India, President of India or the Vice President of India.[55] The aircraft are operated as VIP flights by Air India Pilots.[56] Air India One mainly operates on one of the five Boeing 747-400s that Air India currently owns, to fly the VIPs overseas. Apart from that, the Embraer 135 and customized Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) are also used.[57][58]


Air India Cargo
Air India Cargo Airbus A310-300F.

In 1954, Air India Cargo started its freighter operations with a Douglas DC-3 Dakota aircraft, giving Air India the distinction of being the first Asian airline to operate freighters. The airline operates cargo flights to many destinations. The airline also has ground truck-transportation arrangements on select destinations. A member of IATA, Air India carries all types of cargo including dangerous goods (hazardous materials) and live animals, provided such shipments are tendered according to IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and IATA Live Animals Regulations. At the warehouse in Mumbai, Air India has developed a system of inventory management for cargo handling of import/export functions. This takes care of the entire management of cargo, supports Electronic Data Interface (EDI) messages with Indian Customs and replaces to a great extent existing paper correspondence between Customs, airlines, and the custodians. This also replaces manual handling and binning of cargo at the warehouse in Mumbai by Air India. In 2012, as a part of the restructuring plan, the airline wound up its loss-making cargo business and sold its entire fleet of six Boeing 737-200 freighters.[59]

Air India Regional

Air India Regional was started as a low-cost arm of Indian as Alliance Air As part of Indian's merger with Air India, it was renamed Air India Regional. It operates 357 weekly flights to 25 domestic destinations as a subsidiary of Air India. Its main hub is Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport. As Alliance Air, the airline operated a fleet of 12 Boeing 737-200 aircraft.[60] All these aircraft were phased out post the merger. Air India Regional now operates a mixed fleet of ATR 42-300 and Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft.[61]

Air India Express

Air India Express is the airline's low-cost subsidiary headquartered in Mumbai, operating mainly from Indian state of Kerala.[62] It operates services mainly to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The airline belongs to Air India Charters Limited, a whole owned subsidiary of Air India Limited. Today Air India Express operates nearly 100 flights per week, mainly from southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India. Air India Express operates flights from airports in Kerala, Punjab and Mangalore to Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Muscat and Salalah in the Middle East and Singapore in the east. The airline was established in May 2004, after a long demand from Malayalee expatriate communities living in Middle East.

Air India Charters Limited

Air India Charters Limited (AICL) is another Public Sector Undertaking of the Government of India. Headquartered in Mumbai, India, this subsidiary of Air India operates low cost carrier Air India Express from India to the Gulf and Southeast Asia.[63] AICL operates flights from airports in Kerala, Punjab and Mangalore to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Muscat and Salalah in the Middle East and Singapore in the east. AICL has charters flying throughout India. It works with other charter companies including Vibha Lifesavers[64] for air ambulance and Hi Flying aviation[65] for its general charters in India.

Air India Air Transport Services

Air India Air Transport Services Limited (AIATSL) is a Public Sector Undertaking of the Government of India. AIATSL is a subsidiary of Air India and is headquartered in Mumbai, India.[66] The company provides ground handling services (cargo, passenger, baggage) at various airports in India. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the company was Captain Gustav Baldauf. Captain Gustav Baldauf resigned as COO of AIATSL during February 2011 citing his remarks against the government of India. The Company has authorised Share Capital of Rs. 5 billion divided into 425,636,820 Equity Shares of Rs. 10/- and 7,436,318 Redeemable Prefrerence Shares of Rs. 100/- each and present paid-up capital comprises 153,836,427 fully paid equity shares of Rs. 10/- each amounting to Rs. 1538.4 million.[67]

Involvement in Sports

Air India Football Club

Air India FC was an Indian professional football club founded in 1952, based in Mumbai, which used to play in the I-League till the 2012-13 season. They are sponsored by the airline and have enjoyed some success in the Mumbai Football League. Air India Football Club is one of the oldest corporate sides in the country. Though never considered as front-runners in the I-League, the Mumbai based club has often proved to be a thorn in the flesh for many top sides. They used to play in NFL 2nd Division and got promoted to Premier Division where they have maintained their position there till 2012. Generally a low budget side, Air India’s best finish in the National Football League (now I-League) came in the 1997-1998 season when they were placed sixth in the table and their coach Bimal Ghosh received the Best coach award. Four times champions in the local league in Mumbai, Air India are best known for nurturing youngsters into big time players. Many of these boys have played with distinction for bigger teams in the later years. On 25 February 2012 it was announced that parent company Air India do not have any plans on fulfilling the AFC Criteria required to play in the league and the club was wounded up at the end of the 2011–13 I-League season.

Air India Hockey

Air India hockey team was a formidable side in the domestic circuit.[68] In February 2013, Hockey India de-recognized Air India as its associate member with immediate effect due to non-payment of membership fees since 2010-11 season.[69]

Air India Cricket Teams

Air India sponsors two cricket teams, namely Air India Blue and Air India Red. Both teams have constantly participated in the BCCI Corporate Trophy, with Air India Red being the most successful, and the inaugural winner, with Air India blue being the runner-up. Air India Blue were also the losing semi-finalists of the tournament in 2010, while they won the tournament in 2011 beating State Bank of Hyderabad by just 1 wicket in the finals.[70][71]


Air India serves 60 domestic destinations and 31 international destinations in 19 countries across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.

An Airbus A321 at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Short-haul routes

Air India's short-haul routes mainly include domestic cities and cities in South East Asia and South West Asia. For short-haul routes Airbus A320 family are used. The Boeing 787 aircraft was introduced on selected domestic routes on 19 September 2012.[72]

Long-haul routes

The airline has long-haul destinations in East Asia, North America, and Europe which are served using Boeing 777-200LR and -300ER aircraft. The Boeing 787 aircraft was introduced on long-haul routes on 15 October 2012.[73] However, Toronto was terminated as a destination in 2012, utilizing Newark Liberty International Airport and JFK International Airport, both in the New York City Metropolitan Area, as viable gateways both to the eastern United States as well as Canada. In 2013, Air India launched 787 Dreamliner services to Paris CDG, London Heathrow, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Frankfurt, Dubai and Birmingham. Services to Singapore from New Delhi using the 787 Dreamliner were added in 2014, which replaced the Airbus A319. In 2014, the airline also launched new long haul flights to Rome, Milan and Moscow.

Codeshare agreements

Air India has codesharing agreements with the following airlines along with Star Alliance (as of June 2014):[74][75]


Air India RPK over the years

Since inception, Air India has been witnessing continuous growth in revenue passenger kilometres. Prior to the jet age in 1960s, Air India flew mostly unscheduled flights and saw low numbers of traffic. As the airline introduced more scheduled flights, there was a small upward trend during the 60s. During the 70s, Air India introduced the Boeing 747, which carried more passengers over longer distances. During the period, RPKs rose to over 5000. As newer, more efficient aircraft like the Airbus A300, Airbus A310, the Airbus A320 and newer versions of the Boeing 747 were introduced, Air India quickly expanded its network and by the year 2000, it crossed the 10000 mark. Air India continued expanding its services by taking the delivery of different variants of the Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 777 aircraft. Air India introduced non-stop flights to North America, Europe and eastern Asia. Around the time of the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines, air travel in India was gaining popularity, and by 2010, the traffic tripled to over 30000 RPKs.[76][77]


Airbus A321-200
Airbus A330-200
Boeing 747-400
Boeing 777-200LR
Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner departs London Heathrow Airport, (2014)


As of January 2015, the Air India fleet consists of the following aircraft (including leased aircraft, excluding subsidiaries):[78][79]

Fleet info

As of January 2013, the average age of the Air India fleet is 8.3 years. On 4 August 1993, Air India took the delivery of its first Boeing 747-400, registered VT-ESM and named Konark. The aircraft was officially withdrawn from use and scrapped at Mumbai in May 2011.[83] The airline's first Boeing 777-200LR aircraft was delivered on 26 July 2007. The aircraft was named after the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.[84] Air India received its first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on 9 October, the same year. The aircraft was named Bihar.[85] Air India received its first Boeing 787 dreamliner aircraft on 6 September 2012[86] and commenced flights on 19 September 2012.[87]

Apart from the Boeings, Air India also operates a wide range of Airbus aircraft. In 1989, Indian Airlines introduced the Airbus A320-200 aircraft, which Air India now uses to operate both domestic and international short haul flights. In 2005, Indian Airlines introduced the smaller, A319, which are now used mainly on domestic and regional routes. After the merger in 2007, Air India inducted the biggest member of the A320 family, the A321, to operate mainly on international short haul and medium haul routes. At the same time, Air India leased the Airbus A330s to operate on medium-long haul international routes. As of February 2013, Air India operates 62 A320 family aircraft and 2 A330-200s.

New aircraft orders

On 11 January 2006, Air India announced an order for 68 jets – 8 Boeing 777-200LR Worldliners, 15 Boeing 777-300ER,18 Boeing 737-800 and 27 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. The 18 737s ordered were later transferred to Air India Express. Air India has taken the delivery of 8 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners so far. All remaining dreamliners are expected to be delivered by 2016.[88]

Fleet restructuring

As a part of the financial restructuring, Air India sold five of its eight Boeing 777-200LR to Etihad Airways in December 2013. According to the airline, plans for introducing ultra-long flights with service to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles were canceled due to factors like high fuel prices and weak demand.[89] In April 2014, the airline decided to sell its remaining three Boeing 777-200LR as well, citing higher operating costs.[90] On 24 April 2014, Air India issued a tender for leasing 14 Airbus A320 aircraft for up to six years, to strengthen its domestic network.[91]

Aircraft operated

Apart from the aircraft listed above, Air India operated several other aircraft. Air India operated the De Havilland Puss Moth, De Havilland Fox Moth, Waco YQC-6, de Havilland Dragon Rapide, Percival Petrel, Douglas DC-2, DC-3, Vickers VC.1 Viking, Lockheed L-749 Constellation, Douglas DC-4 and the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation up-to 1960. Thereafter, Air India started operating the Boeing 707 and the De Havilland Comet.[94]


1970–2007 livery

Air India's livery was mostly painted in red and white colours. The bottoms of the aircraft remain metal and unpainted but the upper portion is given a white background along with the airline's name written in red. The name is in Hindi on one side and in English on the other. The painted on red palace style carvings on the outside of the windows refer to their slogan "your palace in the sky" which is written on the back of the aircraft. Near the noses of Air India aircraft, the air plane is given a name. Most planes are named after powerful Indian kings or landmarks. Finally, the tail is mostly red with again, the carrier's name written in Hindi on one side and English on the other. In 1989, to supplement its "Flying Palace" livery, Air India introduced a new livery that was mostly white with a golden spinning wheel on a red tail. Only applied to around a half of Air India's fleet, the new livery did not succeed, as the Indian flying public complained about the phasing out of the classic colours. The livery was dropped after two years and the old scheme was returned.

2007 Pre-merger livery

On 15 May 2007, Air India refreshed its livery, making the Rajasthani arches along the windows slightly smaller, extending a stylised cheatline from the vertical tail of the aircraft to the nose, and painting a small portion of the underbelly red. Additionally, engine nacelles are now deep red, and a gold-coloured version of the airline's stylised Konark trademark now adorns both the vertical tail and engine nacelles. It was only applied to a few aircraft due to the fact that shortly after its introduction, Air India merged with Indian

2007- Post-merger livery

On 22 May 2007, Air India and Indian unveiled their new livery. The logo of the new airline is a Flying Swan with the Konark Chakra placed inside it. The Flying Swan has been morphed from Air India’s characteristic logo, 'The Centaur' whereas the 'Konark Chakra' is reminiscent of Indian’s logo. The new logo features prominently on the tail of the aircraft. Individually the Konark Chakra also features on all the engines of the aircraft. The choice of colours namely red for "Flying Swan" and orange for "Konark Chakra" are meant to signify vigour and advancement. Further the colours also have a strong association with two carriers thereby retaining the earlier imagery of traditional hospitality and service. While the aircraft is ivory in colour, the base retains the red streak of Air India. Running parallel to each other is the Orange and Red speed lines from front door to the rear door, subtly signifying the individual identities merged into one. The same Chakra is seen also on Sari - the female crew uniform(at the End overlapping shoulder) and orange & red lines (a bottom border). Except for Dreamliner-787, the brand name 'Air India' runs across the tail of the aircraft in Hindi.



Business Class seats on board the Boeing 777-200LR/777-300ER
First Class seats on board the Boeing 777-200LR/777-300ER

The Boeing 777-200LR/777-300ER aircraft has three classes of service: first class, business class, and economy class. As a full service airline, Air India serves meals on all classes of travel. Air India's first class is available on their Boeing 747-400 and 777-200LR/777-300ER aircraft. Each seat has a 180-degree recline, sleeperette. The First Class cabin in Boeing 747-400 seats just 12 passengers and has a two-abreast seating pattern. All passengers aboard first class are served with cocktails and meals are served on Royal Doulton tableware. Passengers can chose from Grilled Lamb Chops and Parmesan Cheese Omelets to Chicken Malai Kabab and the Shahi Korma. Champagne is also served.

In-flight entertainment

Air India's Airbus A320 family aircraft are all equipped with Thales i3000 in-flight entertainment system. Passengers can choose from five channels, airing both newer as well as classic Hindi movies, Hollywood action movies, Indian television soap operas, and Bollywood music videos. Air India's leased Airbus A330s have widescreen displays in Business and Economy classes but no personal IFEs. The Boeing 777-200LR/-300ER, Boeing 747-400 and the airline's newly acquired Boeing 787 aircraft use the Thales i4000, i5000, and i8000 audio-video on demand in-flight entertainment systems respectively. Passengers can choose from a wide range of English, Hindi and other regional language movies in India.[95] Showtime is the name of the entertainment guide Air India has made available on all of its flights. Apart from that, Air India also runs an in-flight magazine called Shubh Yatra, which in Sanskrit, means Happy Journey. Shubh Yatra is a bilingual magazine. It is published in both English and Hindi. The magazine covers a variety of issues from travel and culture to lifestyle and entertainment.[96]

Frequent flyer programme

The logo of 'Flying Returns'

Flying Returns is Air India's frequent flyer programme. It is India’s first frequent flyer programme and is claimed to be one of the most rewarding in the region. It is shared by all other Air India Limited carriers. A member can earn mileage points and redeem them for award travel. On higher fares, such as full-fare economy, and on Business/First Class, passengers will earn bonus miles and clock mileage points. The points can be used for awards travel on Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.[97]

Online check-in

Air India passengers confirm their presence on a flight on the Internet and typically print their own boarding passes, through a feature called online check-in. Air India provides this feature to passengers originating from Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. Air India opens its check-in window 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure for domestic and international flights originating from the six metro cities and 24 hours before scheduled departure of flights from the remaining cities.[98]

Premium lounges

Air India London Heathrow Airport lounge
Air India's Maharaja Lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

The Maharaja Lounge (English: "Emperor's Lounge") is available for the use of First and Business class passengers. Air India shares lounges with other international airlines at international airports that do not have a Maharaja Lounge available.[99] There are six[100] Maharaja Lounges, one at each of the six major destinations of Air India:


Awards and recognitions

  • 9th Most Luxurious First Class Cabin in the world, The Richest, April 2014[101]
  • Preferred International Airline award for travel and hospitality from Awaz Consumer Awards 2006[102]
  • Best International West Bound Airline out of India for three successive years by Galileo Express TravelWorld Award
  • Best Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative. by Galileo Express TravelWorld Award[103]
  • Best Short-Haul International Airline by Galileo Express TravelWorld Award 2008[103]
  • The Mercury Award for the years 1994 and 2003, from the International Flight Catering Association, for finest in-flight catering services.
  • Amity Corporate Excellence Award instituted by the Amity International Business School, Noida, Uttar Pradesh to honour Corporates with distinct vision, innovation, competitiveness and sustenance.[103]
  • Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Award[103]
  • Dun and Bradstreet Award(D&B)- first in terms of revenue out of the top airline companies out of India[103]
  • Best South Asian Airline award by readers of TTG Asia, TTG China, TTG Mice and TTG-BT Mice China, all renowned Mice and business travel publications.[103]
  • Cargo Airline of the Year at the 26th Cargo Airline of the Year Awards[104]
  • The airline entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a civil airliner. Over 111,000 people were evacuated from Amman to Mumbai  – a distance of 4,117 km, by operating 488 flights in association with Indian, from 13 August to 11 October 1990  – lasting 59 days. The operation was carried out during Persian Gulf War in 1990 to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait and Iraq.[105]
  • The Montreal Protocol Public Awareness Award was awarded to Air India by the United Nations for environmental protection, especially in the ozone layer.[106]
  • World's first all-jet airline- June 1962
  • World's largest operator of Airbus A310-300
  • Air India's security department became the first aviation security organisation in the world to acquire ISO 9002 certification (31 January 2001).
  • Air India's Department of Engineering has obtained the ISO 9002 for its Engineering facilities for meeting international standards.
  • Fifth airline in the world to receive the Boeing 787

Criticism and controversy

On May 23, 2001, the Ministry of Civil Aviation charged Michael Mascarenhas, the then managing director, with corruption, saying that in 1998 he had "unduly favored" Welcome Travels, Air India's ex-general sales agent (GSA) in London. According to the ministry reports, the airline lost approximately 570 million (US$9.2 million) because of extra commissions, called product linked incentives (PLI), that Mascarenhas sanctioned. Investigations made by the vigilance department of the Civil Aviation Ministry, the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of the airline, and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) confirmed the "undue favour" in a report. Mascarenhas was later suspended from the airline.[107]

In December 2013, the airline appointed veteran pilot SPS Puri as its head of operations. The appointment has been severely criticized by the Air India pilot's union. Allegedly, Captain Puri has over a dozen violations to his name, including two in 2012. A senior member of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Committee (CASAC) of India wrote to the chairman and managing director of Air India about Suri's appointment.[108]

In May 2012, the airline was fined $80,000 by the U.S Transportation Department for failing to post customer service and tarmac delay contingency plans on its website and adequately inform passengers about its optional fees.[109]

In September 2013, noted Australian-based litigation lawyer NRI Gurpal Singh alleged that he and few other passengers were subjected to racial discrimination by the airline staff, while on board the maiden Air India flight between Melbourne and New Delhi.[110]

Accidents and incidents

  • On 3 November 1950 Air India Flight 245 Malabar Princess a Lockheed L-749 Constellation (registered VT-CQP) carrying 48 people (40 passengers and 8 crew), flying on the Bombay-Cairo-Geneva-London route, crashed on Mont Blanc, France, killing all on board.[111][112]
  • On 11 April 1955 Kashmir Princess a Lockheed L-749A Constellation registered (VT-DEP) carrying 19 people (11 passengers and 8 crew) was bombed in midair, killing 16 of the 19 on board.[113]
  • On 19 July 1959 Rani of Aera a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation (registered VT-DIN) carrying 46 people (39 passengers and 7 crew) approached Santacruz Airport in conditions of poor visibility due to rain. The captain was using an altimeter with the barometric pressure set at 29.92". An overshoot was delayed and the aircraft crashed and suffered damage beyond repair. There were no fatalities.
The Air India Memorial in Toronto, Canada dedicated to the victims of Air India Flight 182
  • On 25 December 1974, Air India Flight 105, a Boeing 747-237B, was en route between Beirut (BEY), Lebanon and Roma-Fiumicino Airport (FCO), Italy when it was hijacked by a 31-year old male passenger. The crew was able to subdue the hijacker, who was handed over to Italian police officers after landing. Flight AI 105 was a scheduled service from Bombay-Santacruz Airport (BOM), India to New York-JFK (JFK), USA with en route stops at Beirut, Rome and Paris.[114]
  • On 1 January 1978 Air India Flight 855 Emperor Ashoka a Boeing 747-237B (registered VT-EBD) crashed into the Arabian Sea after takeoff from Sahar International Airport (now Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport) in Mumbai, killing all on board (213 persons; 190 passengers, 23 crew).
  • On 7 May 1990 Air India Flight 132 Emperor Vikramaditya a Boeing 747-237B (registered VT-EBO) flying on the London-Delhi-Bombay route and carrying 215 people (195 passengers and 20 crew) touched down at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport after a flight from London's Heathrow Airport. On application of reverse thrust, a failure of the no. 1 engine pylon to wing attachment caused this engine to tilt nose down. Hot exhaustion gases caused a fire on the left wing. There were no fatalities but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair and written off.[118]
  • On July 14, 2014 Air India Flight 144, a 777-300ER, heading to Mumbai from Newark, made an emergency landing back at Newark Airport after it had suffered a bird strike during takeoff and had to shut down the left hand engine. The plane burst multiple tires on landing but all 313 people on board were safe.[119]

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External links

  • Official website

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