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Air India officials want minister to do their jobs

Virtually everyone in the industry, including Air Indians, complain about the excessive interference by the ministry in the day-to-day operational issues of the airline instead of focussing on broad-based industry oriented issues like a comprehensive civil aviation policy or a strong regulator which would have prevented India’s safety status be downgraded, etc. Yet, going by a media report in The Times of India (TOI), it appears that officials at national carrier Air India want the minister of civil aviation to do their job.

First the facts. Last Friday, May 9, an Air India 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANK performing flight AI120 from Frankfurt to New Delhi suffered a cracked windshield window soon after take-off. The pilots arrested the climb at 4,000ft turned around and landed back at Frankfurt 20 minutes later.

Windshield cracks are not an uncommon phenomenon. We even experience them in our cars. Cracks can occur due to foreign object damage i.e. something hitting the windshield, or due to uneven heating or cooling, or as in the case of Air India, due to an ingress of water through the seals which can result in short-circuits. While the exact reason for the failure is unknown, the airline’s Dreamliner fleet has already suffered five instances of cracked windshield windows. Considering these are brand new aircraft, these failures are unusual and speak to a systemic problem that needs to be prompt addressing.

The question arises who should address it and with whom? It is natural to expect the customer, in this case Air India, would take it up with the manufacturer Boeing, and it appears this has been done. A senior Air India official quoted in the report says, the issue has been taken up with Boeing but has not been satisfactorily resolved. Here one would expect Air India to escalate the issue and pressure Boeing. After all cracked windshields ground aircraft and affect despatch reliability which in turn lower the airline’s punctuality reputation, and let’s face it, Air India is already lacking in this area.

The TOI report says

Sources in AI [Air India] say that the airline is waiting for the next aviation minister to take over and then raise the issue with Boeing. They say that the outgoing top brass of aviation ministry never took up the issue seriously with Boeing. “We expected the issues AI is facing with Dreamliners to have been taken up when Ajit Singh [the civil aviation minister] was there. But none of our issues have been resolved and we continue to lose money as a result of the unending B-787 snags.”

Why would the senior bosses of Air India expect the minister to do a task clearly that is theirs to do? There is already a minister of Air India, he is called the chairman and managing director of the airline, and his name is Rohit Nandan.

The airline official goes on to say “Our passengers also suffer and we get a bad name for no fault of ours,”. Sorry Mr. Official, the fault is very much yours and your colleagues. For years Air India has been plagued by systemic sloth, apathy, and this report shows the sheer lack of responsibility at the top echelons of the airline. If these officials expect the minister to do their job, they have no business occupying their seats.

Share your thoughts via a comments. The TOI article may be read here.

Incidentally, Mr. Ajit Singh has lost his bid for re-election from the Baghpath constituency.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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