NEW DELHI- The Pride of India used to be Air India. Except that it was a long long time ago and only Air India’s management might remember what used to be golden days. Air India is indeed in big, big troubles. The carrier has not been able to make a profit for the last six years. Just for the last fiscal year 2011/2012, India’s national carrier lost US$ 1.45 billion, the equivalent of almost three-quarters of the losses made by all Indian carriers combined. A merger with its domestic State counterpart Indian Airlines, made in 2007, never provided the expected benefits.
With two different cultures and none of the airline’s employees wanting to make concession to the single entity management, the merger could be considered as a failure from day one.
The two disparate entities created together a behemoth with 30,517 employees, the equivalent of 214 employees per plane. A number of be compared with 161 employees per aircraft at Singapore Airlines. From aircraft types –Airbus for Indian Airlines versus Boeing for Air India- to social benefits, nothing has been harmonized over the last five years.
The last events in late spring shows how much employees of Air India have not been able to bridge their differences. On May 8, about 400 pilots went on strike to protest the decision to allow Indian Airlines pilots to train on Air India's Boeing B787 Dreamliner. It was the longest running pilots’ strike ever on memory: pilots were striking for more than 50 days. It then forced the carrier to streamline its activities with a reduction in the total of international services.
Since the strike ended last month on July 8th, Air India’s activity is only coming slowly back to normal. The airline just announced last Monday that it will soon resume most of its international operations by the end of this month. Flights will be restored to New York, Chicago and Paris, followed by Hong Kong and Shanghai, an airline official said. Then further flights to Southeast Asia will follow by the middle of August.
Although Air India is back into a more normal activity, such a long-standing strike can only damaged further the image of India’s national carrier by showing its lack of reliability...