New Delhi: Tata group has emerged as the successful bidder of the divestment process of the national carrier Air India. The Tata group’s holding company, Tata Sons through its wholly-owned subsidiary Talace Pvt Ltd submitted a winning bid of Rs 18,000 Crore as the Enterprise Value of Air India.
Consequent to the acquisition, the Tatas will own a 100% stake in Air India (a full-service airline operating in domestic and international markets) as also 100% in its subsidiary Air India Express (a low-cost carrier airline that focusses on short-haul international operations especially in the Middle East market) and 50% in the joint venture Air India SATS (airport services on ground and cargo handling). The total permanent and contractual employee strength of Air India & AIXL is 13,500.
Commenting on the development, N. Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons Pvt Ltd said, “At the Tata group, we are delighted to be declared as the winner of the bid for AIR INDIA. This is a historic moment, and it will be a rare privilege for our group to own and operate the country’s flag bearer airline. It will be our endeavour to build a world-class airline that makes every Indian proud. On this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to JRD Tata, pioneer of Indian aviation, whose memory we cherish.”
The Tatas will get ownership of iconic brands like Air India, Indian Airlines & the Maharajah. Air India has a fleet of 117 wide-body and narrow-body aircraft and AIXL has a fleet of 24 narrow-body aircraft. A significant number of these aircraft are owned by Air India.
Air India provides a unique and attractive international footprint. More than 2/3rd of Air India’s consolidated revenues come from the international market. It is the number one player from India in the international market having a strong footprint across geographies like North America, Europe, and the Middle East with attractive slots & bilateral rights. The Air India frequent flyer program has more than 3 million members.
About Talace Private Limited
Talace Pvt Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Pvt Ltd.
About the Tata group
Founded by Jamsetji Tata in 1868, the Tata group is a global enterprise, headquartered in India, comprising 30 companies across ten verticals. The group operates in more than 100 countries across six continents, with a mission ‘To improve the quality of life of the communities we serve globally, through long-term stakeholder value creation based on Leadership with Trust’.
Tata Sons is the principal investment holding company and promoter of Tata companies. Sixty-six percent of the equity share capital of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts, which support education, health, livelihood generation, and art and culture.
In 2020-21, the revenue of Tata companies, taken together, was $103 billion (INR 7.7 trillion). These companies collectively employ over 800,000 people. Each Tata company or enterprise operates independently under the guidance and supervision of its own board of directors. There are 29 publicly-listed Tata enterprises with a combined market capitalisation of $242 billion (INR 17.8 trillion) as on March 31, 2021. Companies include Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Chemicals, Tata Consumer Products, Titan, Tata Capital, Tata Power, Tata Advanced Systems, Indian Hotels and Tata Communications.
Leading law firm Cyril Amarchand was legal advisor for the Air India disinvestment project. Accounting and advisory firm E&Y, was the transaction advisor.
This is the story about the ordeal and nightmare the passengers went through at the Air india domestic check in counter before boarding the Delhi-Bhopal Flight AI437 on 19 February 2021.
One is not surprised why Air India is suffering losses. Here is a case study that amply explains why privatization is what Indians need. The accountability in PVT sector makes you work harder and the customer/citizens are beneficiaries and get the real worth of the money they spend.
For a flight at 7:45 evening, thank heavens, I started from my dwelling at 1 noon due to the farmer’s protest at the Delhi Border. I reached the airport and was in the queue at the Air India Counter at around 3:45 pm for the check-in at 5:15 pm. After the security check, I was at the flight gate at 6: 30 pm. After having skipped lunch, one was in such a bad shape while boarding the aircraft…which again was late by 1 hour….all this was so frustrating that I even decided….not to fly by Air india again…
Now people might think all this is normal with Terminal 3 and weekend rush. But I would like to focus attention towards a friend of mine, who landed at the airport around the same time, took Vistara to Mumbai and reached there even before I could land at the flight Gate. Vistara also had similar number of passengers but what separated them from those who took the Air India flight was the efficient manner in which the Vistara staff was managing their check-in counters during the crunch hour.
Air india had employees working like sloths. So slow and yet only three counters. One of which was closed as the employees’ time was over and there was no one to fill in. Great management indeed.
No quick check-in counters for those sloppy late comers…early comers had also turned into late comers because of the poor speed these guys exhibited while attending to those already in the queue.
For the late comers a Rajpal Yadav lookalike was heard announcing- “Kochi Flight”, “Varanasi flight”. Mind it, this happened only once. Hearing this the vigilant and impatient few scrambled and rushed towards this dude, who asked them all to jump their turn, break the line and rush towards the counter. This way, he encouraged them to push aside those already in line. In the midst of all this, what further added to the chaos was the desk employee’s tantrums.
The senior citizens who couldn’t hear him were at total loss and there was absolutely no one to give a helping hand. An agitated elderly woman who was braving COVID and was travelling back to her husband after visiting her sons…was literally cursing them “You all will never prosper”. I was shocked and dismayed by the reaction of the airline staff as they began laughed at her.
There was no senior officer or supervisor around to handle the crisis. In sharp contrast, everyone is aware how there is always an Air India officer in attendance helping bureaucrats and VIPs, who invariably arrive at the last moment and within no time, they are escorted through the security. I wonder….How these employees get selected?What motivates them to do their work to their satisfaction? What would be their targets? What would be the sense or belonging they have towards the brand they work for? They are just a glorified and a high end kind of versions of what we see in most Government run enterprises. An airline that promises premium service unequalled by any competitor, an airline that has commanded people’s trust all these years, if it is in doldrums and in red today, there have to be definite reasons for it. What I witnessed and went through the other day explains a lot. People, who are supposed to be running the airline are failing in their responsibility. Same is the story with many Government and public sector enterprises.
Deepu Krishna, resident of Bhopal, is currently working with OP Jindal Global University as Deputy Director Admissions and Outreach.
New Delhi: When Air India is on sale and the Government of India even has released the Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM) for inviting Expression of Interest (EOI) from the Interested Bidders (IBs) for Strategic Disinvestment of the national carrier, Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani has failed to acknowledge the threat posed by major epidemic of Coronavirus that has been spreading in China and has chosen not to suspend with immediate effect all Air India flights to Hong Kong and China.
Instead Air India is only curtailing some flights to China. Air India will continue to operate its flights to Hong Kong. On Wednesday evening, One business class seat was still available on Air India flight AI348 between Delhi and Shanghai. Similarly Air India was also offering Business class seats on Shanghai-Delhi route on different dates in the first fortnight of February through code sharing.
Wednesday evening, Air India said it is suspending its flights on Delhi-Shanghai route but not Hong Kong from January 31 to February 14. Air India has also suspended its Mumbai-Delhi-Shanghai flight from January 31 to February 14. In the meanwhile, the only advisory to the Air India crew on other flights between India and China is that they should be wearing masks. This is in sharp contrast with British Airways that was the first carrier to suspend all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the Coronavirus outbreak. British citizens returning to the UK from Wuhan have been put in quarantine for two weeks.
This is the state of affairs vis-a-vis Air India when Government of India is all set for transfer of management control and sale of 100% shares of Air India along with Air India’s 100% stake in its subsidiary, Air India Express Limited and 50% stake in joint venture, AISATS.
Just like British Airways, United Airlines of the US has also temporarily suspended its flights (February 1 though February 8) between its US hubs and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
AirAsia also has extended suspension of flights to Wuhan until February 29
There are also other international carriers that have cancelled flights connecting Hongkong and mainland China.
Among private Indian Carriers, Indigo has suspended its flight to Chengdu but continues to operate the Kolkata-Guangzhou flight.
Instead of appreciating the emergency and taking a cue from airlines that have suspended all flights to China taking into account the Coronoavirus threat, the decision to continue Air India flights to China, barring suspension of flights to Shanghai, amounts to endangering crew and importing Coronavirus.
Can one “dream” of a Boeing-787-800 “Dreamliner” taking 24 hours to cover 1,450-kilometres Kolkata-Delhi distance? 238 passengers reached Delhi (staggered, battered, scattered) as destitute, depressed, distraught, hungry, thirsty, exhausted, with bath-less stinking-body, dirty because of lack of toilet, (aircraft water and tissue papers over-consumed), toothbrush-less, breakfast-less after being confined to static aircraft on Jaipur’s Sanganer airport parking bay for almost five hours (9:52 pm on December 12 to 2:35 am on December 13, 2019), with cabin lights put off. Yes, that’s what was done by cabin crew members of AI-701 on Thursday, December 12 and Friday, December 13, 2019.
The scenario wasn’t expected or anticipated to turn gloomy and pathetic within a few hours of take-off when passengers at Kolkata assembled to check-in, got security done, and boarded at much-maligned Dum Dum airport.
Far from gloomy, Kolkata airport wore a visibly festive look and enjoyed season’s happy mood, notwithstanding the turbulent polity of the nation. Thus, when the aircraft readied for timely departure, came the captain’s announcement from the cockpit: “Owing to inclement weather, Delhi control advised all outstation-origin flights to hold at respective stations, till further info”, thereby delaying AI-701’s departure by clean 67 minutes.
Full-load domestic AI-701, Boeing-787-800 (ANQ), operating Kolkata-Delhi leg, though 67 minutes behind schedule time, owing to remote non-clearance of Delhi ATC on weather issues, nevertheless was smoothly airborne from 11900′ (3627 metres) runway 01 Right/19 Left in 42 seconds dot. It was 6:37 pm. After retracting flap, slat and heavy undercarriage, the mighty twin-engine bird (maximum take-off weight 227.93 ton) stabilised and smoothened its flight envelope/configuration to reduce drag and enhance thrust to gain height and take designated flight level, above 30000′, allotted by Calcutta ATC.
Nothing much happened thereafter though for 1 hour and 25 minutes, except serving veg-snacks, two emphatic pleas by the cabin crew not to move or leave “while seat belt sign is on” and guiding four errand passengers in search for upper-class toilets. Sitting reclined to catch a short nap in the forward aisle seat, one got devoured by sweet dreams of another silken-smooth touchdown of Dreamliner on Delhi’s 14534′ (4430 metres) runway 29/11 or 12500′ (3810 metres) runway 28/10 and calculating approach speed and gliding path! Which side? Delhi-Gurgaon-Jaipur national highway or Dwarka! But, that was not to be; as a sombre, not-too-optimistic announcement from cockpit played spoilt sport of my thoughts (and also wishes of 237 co-passengers); that owing to “severe storm, turbulence, low visibility, AI-701 along with all Delhi-approaching craft are to ‘hold’ and ‘hover’ till further direction from Delhi controller” and that there could be “flight diversion” in case weather doesn’t clear soon. It was fifteen minutes past 8 pm. Our ‘flight of good times’ suddenly appeared doubtful. Instead, began anxiety for Delhi-landing. Soon, however, came the order: ‘divert to Jaipur’. Delhi weather was not conducive to a safe landing. The sorry plight of 238 passengers of AI-701 flight had begun. The usual 30-minute Delhi-Jaipur flight took 45 minutes as the weather around Jaipur too was soggy and foggy, resulting in clogged air traffic of diverted flights. Thus far, however, Air India couldn’t have been criticised as things certainly were beyond its control. Nevertheless, hereinafter a lamentable lack of professionalism and maturity of aircraft crew made life miserable for each and every passenger. AI-701 landed in Jaipur at 9:52 pm, 3 hours and 15 minutes after take-off from Kolkata. It was time for some food at least. But, no. It turned out to be time for compulsory starvation, akin to “black hole” tragedy of 1757 Bengal. Mighty Boeing-787-800 on the ground; all lights mysteriously switched off by the unresponsive cabin crew who en mass resorted to vanishing tricks; cockpit crew on radio silence (akin to December 7, 1941, Japanese navy’s Pearl Harbour mission) and overflowing washrooms with un-washable water spreading stinks. One never imagined a band of non-professionals operating a great airline like Air India, founded by the legendary JRD Tata who must be weeping his heart out from inside his grave. Repeated passenger plea for food and access to airport lounge fell on deaf ears of AI-701 crew. Instead, false info was furnished about imminent take-off to Delhi. At 2:35 am, however, they yielded as it became clear that the cockpit crew could not have had violated “flight duty time limitation” (FDTL), a mandatory provision stipulated by International Civil Aviation Organisation, barring pilots to operate beyond certain hours owing to fatigue. Two passengers knew about it and asked questions. To this, a cabin crew nastily retorted: “Don’t worry, will do what we think best to take you to Delhi”. Reality is, either the cabin crew didn’t know aviation rules or simply didn’t expect “ignorant cattle class passengers to point out aviation law”.
AI-701 never landed in Delhi. All passengers were dumped in Jaipur. Should it not be treated as breach of contract and a case fit for consumer court by all 238 passengers?
Thus, all of AI-701 was now at the disposal of one AI man who took us round and round for more than two hours in the midst of chaos, confusion and exchange of choicest of expletives. Not a single food outlet. Not a single loader for baggage handling. Not an iota of effort to see what happens to 238 commercial passengers of AI-701. Each and every passenger eventually had to disperse on his/her own steam. Shelling out thousands to reach Delhi. I too spent Rs 9,000 to reach Delhi in a cab around 4 pm on Friday, December 13, 2019. Exhausted. Having starved close to 21 hours. Without bath, change and mirror to comb. A real story can be written for this devastating fiasco of Air India’s immature, non-professional, insensitive, arrogant, indifferent, callous and could-not-care-less crew. Yes, Air India must be handed over. To whom? Only to the original owner. Tata. Not to any other private or foreign operator. They will simply do what at least a dozen private airlines owners of India had done in recent past. Loot and scoot.
Postscript: I was an ardent advocate of government-owned and operated Air India for more than five decades and always defended them. Not today. Time has come for it to go back to where it was born. For the sake of professionalism, not amateurism and ignorance. Contextually, a two-decade-old Air India flight comes to mind. That too was a Thursday. October 7, 1999. Air India-273 Kolkata-Mumbai, commanded by a superb professional Captain RKS Gandhi. Between Aurangabad and Mumbai, the mighty Airbus-300-B4, registration number VT-EHC (maximum take-off weight 165 tons) hit severe turbulence of “retreating monsoon”, thereby compelling it to divert to Hyderabad. What grand “delay” it was! Hyderabadi hosts at their hospitality-best and Air Indians, their professional-best. All Mumbaikars reached home “next day” on Friday, October 8, 1999, after a delay of 12 hours. But none starving, thirsty, unhappy. Weather can play negative for aviation ops, but professional aircrew cannot act as a clueless bunch of cronies of the crown.
The author: AbhijitBhattacharyya is a practicing advocate at the Supreme Court and High Court. He is also an alumnus of National Defence College and the author of ‘China in India’.