Air India has expressed intent to acquire a massive number of both Airbus and Boeing jets that will modernize and transform its fleet. Will Air India in the Tata Group era emerge as a leading premium carrier of the world?
New Aircraft Order Is Pivotal First Step, But Air India Must Refresh Service Model Onboard To Become A Premium Carrier
After being privatized in January 2022, Air India has signed respective letters of intent with Airbus and Boeing to purchase the following jets:
- 140 A320neo
- 70 A321neo
- 6 A350-900
- 34 A350-1000
- 190 737 MAX (with option for 50 more)
- 10 777-9
- 20 787 (with option for 20 more)
The order will transform the aging fleet of Air India, which includes 777 and 787-8 jets for longhaul travel.
But Air India is currently the butt of many jokes concerning its onboard service, with recent revelations that flight attendants appeared indifferent to a drunk male passenger urinating on an older female passenger in-flight. That story is one of many and the flag carrier of India is not known for its luxury.
Under Tata, however, Air India will merge with Vistara and the plan is to transform Air India into a leading carrier of the world.
Air India remains one of two Star Alliance carriers I have never flown (the other being Shenzhen Airlines) and under the current service model, I have no desire to. But if the current management at Air India is willing to take on a beleaguered state-owned enterprise, I am hopeful that investment will not only concentrate on aircraft, but the soft product onboard.
Many airlines have flashy new aircraft, but it is only the hospitality onboard–which includes meal service–that distinguishes the great from the good. Little things like nicely plating meals instead of serving them covered in foil or addressing passengers by name or offering a premium ground product will all be instrumental in gauging whether Air India can truly transform itself.
I look forward to that ride and of all the carriers in the world right now, I see that Air India has the greatest room for improvement…but also the greatest potential.
Air India plans the largest aircraft order in the history of aviation. But new aircraft alone will not solve its woes. Indeed, it must transform its service model as well…or else it be guilty of simply putting lipstick on a pig.
image: Air India