For over 40 years Air India was the pride and joy of a developing nation, a pioneer for Indian aviation, known to be one of the bespoken best; charismatic and grand. Now while the erstwhile airline might still be just as popular today, for the most part of the last decade, it’s been so for all the wrong reasons. Battered and bruised by managerial blunders, government inertia, and above all, unethical practices of nepotism and high handedness, perpetrated by those at the helm of affairs, our national carrier, with a sizeable domestic and international presence, has constantly been one to crash land into financial doldrums.
While the airline has faced some turbulent times in the past; it being no stranger to receiving the short end due to bureaucratic bungling and governmental apathy, Air India has always managed to come out unscathed (and with a bit of renewed vigour) proving its resilience and inherent strength. But with thousands of crores worth of losses accruing each passing year and the disheartened, simply looking to distance themselves from the problem, the public is now beginning to wonder if finally shutting down India’s national carrier for good, is the only solution.
The government however, does not seem to think so. Some pragmatic managerial re-staffing, some well thought out recovery strategies and heads have already begun to roll. Having replaced all of Air India’s top brass, while asserting the need for parleys to chalk out correctional measures; the government has also taken to periodic infusions of funds to keep the airline afloat. So why then, is there so much pessimism when it comes to the community and what else can be done?
Apart from the government, the majestic Maharaja needs a bit of sympathy and a lot of support from the media. The media, as we have all seen before, is a potent tool when it comes to shaping an organisation’s image. It is the sick that need a doctor, not the healthy. The media’s role in covering Air India in the past has been hostile and confrontational – lacking any positive healing touch, mindlessly dissecting while adding fuel to the fire. Such bias and malicious reporting has brought about a sense of cynicism that has consistently hampered any progress. While covering stories about Air India, currently in resurrection mode, the media has to take in to consideration the company’s glorious history, its performance, its strength, its resilience and the fact that the crisis is temporary, a passing phase. And given the right mix of remedial measures – cost cutting, optimisation of operations, focus on sectors, wooing back of frequent flyers, building up of credibility by enhancing efficiency and value additions; and above all an enlightened, responsible management team – Air India will be back to its initial grandeur in no time; joining the world’s elite.
After all, it’s always a proud moment for an Indian, abroad, to see an AI flight standing tall amidst a backdrop of Lufthansa, American Airlines, British Airways and Emirates.