Return of the Maharajah: Air India’s multi-billion dollar turnaround plan to become world's best airlines

Ishtiaq Hussein, Special Correspondent,
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Air India, India's privatised 92-year-old flag carrier is gearing up not just to regain its lost glory but also to become one of the world’s best airlines with multi-billion-dollar investments.

In the 70s, Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew enjoyed Air India's service and said he wanted to establish such a state-owned airline in his country.

Reflecting the quality of its services, the airline’s mascot is the Maharajah (High King). It was created in 1946 by Bobby Kooka, the then-commercial director of Air India, and Umesh Rao, an artist with J Walter Thompson Limited.

Air India, which was then ranked among the best in terms of service quality, went from declining to a struggling airline over the years.

In October 2021, the loss-making company was later sold by the Indian government back to its original owners, the Tata Group.

With Tata regaining control of Air India, Tata Sons Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran made it clear they aim to make the company the best airline in the world.

Following the acquisition, Tata appointed Campbell Wilson as the CEO of Air India. Before joining Air India, Campbell worked at low-cost airline Scott in Singapore.

5-year turnaround plan

Air India is in the process of restoring its glory under a 5-year turnaround project.

Under the plan, the company has already ordered 470 new aircraft; 5,000 new workers have been hired, whose average age has been brought down from 54 to 35.

Tata Group has invested $10 billion over the past few years to revamp Air India.

Apart from the purchase order of 470 new aircraft, cabin modernisation and passenger service standards have been redone.

In the 5-year plan, Air India expects massive growth in the country's domestic market, which has around 145 million passengers annually.

Tata's primary priority is to retire its ageing aircraft from its fleet because the maintenance of these aircraft was neglected for decades.

Within a short period of taking ownership, Air India added 36 aircraft to its fleet through leasing, including 11 Boeing 777s and 25 Airbus A320s.

Through these aircraft, the airline launched 6 new international routes and also increased the number of flights on 24 routes.

Air India is investing $70 billion for 470 aircraft. These aircraft include 140 A320 Neos, 70 A321 Neos and 190 Boeing 737 Max.

Time will tell

Aviation experts say it is difficult to say now what its future holds but revamping is the best investment to pull out a sinking airline.

Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of Air India, said significant improvement in Tata’s ownership of the airline will be visible from 2027.

“To be honest this is not T20 cricket. It will take time to restore brand image and acquire technology, services and new aircraft,” he added.

Hardy Patel, a travel curator, said a debt-ridden, loss-making airline will take time to pull itself together.

Tata remains steadfast in its mission despite criticism and worker unrest.

“With the latest acquisitions, Air India will be able to operate the world's most advanced and fuel-efficient aircraft within 5 years. The airline is spending $400 million to upgrade the existing fleet by refurbishing cabin interiors. Onboard services have also been improved. These include the introduction of premium economy seats on long-haul flights and the introduction of new food menus,” Air India CEO Campbell Wilson said.

Air India aims to fly high

India is the only country whose population will surpass China in future.

The country’s middle class is growing rapidly due to which the demand for air travel is increasing not only from the upper class but also from the mid-tier.

In the last decade, Indigo Airlines capitalised on this demand and became the largest airline in the country.

Even in international destinations, they are doing well.

Indigo Airlines has a market share of 25% in international destinations.

Tata has already invested $200 million in the technology sector just to increase reliability.

The company is rescheduling the Dhaka-Mumbai route with Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

Merger of Vistara with Air India will be another milestone.

Analysts believe that this will make Air India a truly world-class airline.

Air India aims to capture 30% market share – both in domestic and international routes, by 2027.

The company adds one new aircraft to its fleet every 6 days.

Bigger airport for the big fleet

To cope with the increase in air travellers, India is building an aviation hub as an alternative to Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport – the Noida International Airport, which will be able to handle three times more passengers.

Once its construction is completed, it will emerge as an alternative to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.

Located in the Gautam Buddha Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh, the airport is being developed on a public-private partnership model.

In 2019, Flugfen, the operator of Zurich Airport in Switzerland, won the contract to build the new airport in Noida.

They will operate the airport for 40 years. The construction of this new airport and the expansion of Indira Gandhi International Airport will cost up to $11 billion.

Meanwhile, the National Highways Authority of India is constructing this 31km long greenfield highway to reach the airport.

Initially, the airport will have two runways and space has been earmarked to expand it to 8 runways.

Noida Airport will be able to serve 1.2 million passengers a year and it will be increased to serve 1.2 million passengers.

Concerns remain over consistency 

But even after all this, there are still concerns about Air India.

Despite the big investments, experts say it will lay the groundwork for Air India to succeed, but the changes won't do much if the airline can't be reliable and punctual to passengers.

Above all the airlines have to be extremely vigilant about on-time flights, otherwise once the passengers turn away it will be very difficult and difficult to regain trust.


This time Palestine was recognized by another European country

International Desk,
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This time, another European country, Armenia, has recognized Palestine as an independent state. At the same time, the country has strongly condemned the barbaric attacks and massacres by the Israeli forces in the besieged Gaza territory of Palestine.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Eastern European country made this announcement on Friday (June 21), Arab News reported in its report.

In the declaration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia demanded an end to Israeli violence in the entire Palestinian territory, including Gaza. By granting this recognition, the Eastern European country supports the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and their legitimate status as an independent state.

Earlier, the Slovenian government approved the decision to recognize Palestine as an independent state on May 30. The Slovenian prime minister also demanded an immediate end to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and the release of all Israeli prisoners.

Spain, Norway and Ireland officially recognized Palestine as an independent state on May 28. The leaders of the countries said that their countries officially recognize the Palestinian state for peace in the Middle East.

So far, about 145 UN countries have recognized Palestine.

Incidentally, starting from October 7, Israel has been carrying out indiscriminate massacres and barbaric attacks in Gaza, which is besieged by Palestine, for about eight months. More than 37,000 Palestinians have already been killed in Israeli attacks. Most of them are women and children. Besides, more than 88 thousand people were injured.


Butcher Jihad in 14 days jail custody again

International Desk,
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Jhenaidah-4 Constituency MP Anwarul Azim Anar's murder case accused butcher Jihad Howladar has been ordered to 14 days in jail custody again.

Barasat’s Sessions Court of North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal gave this order on Friday (June 21).

On May 23, Jihad was arrested from Bangaon in West Bengal by the CID of West Bengal State Police. On May 24, he was taken to Barasat Court for the first time. After that, the court ordered a total of 14 days CID custody for 2 rounds. After CID remand, when he was taken to court on June 7, the judge ordered 14 days of jail custody in the first phase. At the end of that period, the court again ordered a 14-day jail custody on Friday.

However, the accused Jihad Howladar did not appear in court that day. He is currently lodged in Dum Dum Central Jail. From there, Chief Judicial Magistrate Shuvankar Biswas heard the statement of the accused on video conference and fixed the date of next appearance. In that case, he will be brought to court again on July 5.

Accused Jihad has been booked under four non-bailable sections – 364 (kidnapping with intent to murder), 302 (culpable homicide), 201 (tampering with evidence) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) – of the Indian Penal Code.

It is to be noted that on May 13, MP Anar was murdered in Sanjiva Garden in Newtown. It is known that the murder was done on the orders of Akhtaruzzaman Shaheen, a US citizen of Bangladesh origin, who planned the murder.


Despite ban, Turkish goods are going to Israel

International Des,
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Turkey imposed a ban on all trade with Israel. The announcement was made by the country's Ministry of Commerce last May citing the "further deterioration of the humanitarian situation" in the besieged Gaza Strip. However, despite the ban, Turkish goods are going to Israel through third countries this month.

This information was published in a report of Middle East Eye on Thursday (June 20).

According to the report, Turkish goods have been reaching Israel through Greece and other nearby countries since the beginning of May, despite the trade embargo.

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel imported 116 million US dollars worth of goods from Turkey last May which is 69 percent less than May last year. But Turkey's export agency claims only 4 million US dollars worth of goods went to Israel in May which is 99 percent less than last May.

However, a permanent ceasefire has not yet been established in Gaza. In the meantime, Turkey is sending goods to Israel even after announcing the imposition of a complete trade embargo on Israel.

However, a trade official claimed that most of the goods that Israel ordered before Turkey imposed the trade embargo are now going to Israel via Greece.


Kejriwal is accused of demanding a bribe of Rs. 100 crore

International Desk,
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India's central agency, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), has claimed that Delhi Chief Minister Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal demanded a bribe of Rs 100 crore.

According to a report by the Indian media India Today, the ED made this claim during the hearing in the excise case. At that time ED said that they have evidence in this regard.

During the hearing at Delhi's Rouse Avenue court on Wednesday (June 19), the ED told the court that Kejriwal sought the money for his party's funds. Earlier, Kejriwal was included in the hearing through a video conference.

The ED lawyer told the court that the CBI investigation revealed that Kejriwal demanded a bribe of Rs 100 crore. Kejriwal has not yet proved that he did not commit the crime.

According to Indian media NDTV, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Arvind Kejriwal on March 21 for his involvement in the excise (liquor) corruption case. On May 10, he was granted bail for 21 days on the orders of the Supreme Court. The court granted three weeks' interim bail for the Lok Sabha elections. Kejriwal was sent back to jail after the interim bail expired. He is in Delhi's Tihar Jail.