Listen to your passengers Mr. Lohani
Listen to your passengers Mr. Lohani

A suggestion for Mr. Lohani, CMD of Air India. Experience your airline!!

Ashwani Lohani, Chairman and Managing Director Air India. Image from his Twitter account.
Ashwani Lohani, CMD Air India. Image from his Twitter account.

Soon after he took over as Chairman and Managing Director of national carrier Air India, Ashwani Lohani, declared he would engage the over 20,000 work force at the airline.

Good idea.

I have just one additional suggestion for Mr. Lohani. Learn from the TV series Undercover boss; personally experience your airline by travelling on it, anonymously.

To best understand what plagues your airline, buy tickets on Air India, by yourself, not through any secretary or assistant. Travel a few trips around the country. Try and avoid New Delhi, and fly some non-metro routes.

Your travels should help you obtain first-hand experiences which will explain why the general public views your company with disdain.

The recent DGCA investigation in the Bangalore Dreamliner incident shows how many of your employees indulge in infighting and make all forms of statements, just to protect their jobs. It will be your fellow passengers who will give you honest and unbiased feedback on the problems plaguing the airline — apathetic employees, poor service, creaking and filthy aircraft, bureaucratic bungling, and inexplicable delays.

You will understand why, despite a requirement for government employees to fly your airline, over quarter of your seats remain unsold. You may also understand why all but two of your international, and all but six of your domestic flights lose money.

If you can disguise yourself, and go to work anonymously, even for a few days, you will learn, how, many Air India employees occupy their position less by merit, and more by political clout, sycophancy, nepotism, or bureaucratic survival skills. You may also observe the apathy, corruption and sloth that has hollowed out the foundations of a once proud airline.

I still cherish the memories of my first flight. From Bombay to New Delhi aboard Air India’s first and, at that time, new, Boeing 747, Emperor Ashoka.

I am deeply saddened to see the devaluation of the once upon a time, globally recognised airline. The airline that helped initially train the world leader in airline customer service, Singapore Airlines, is today the laggard of the industry.

While Government and unions share some of the blame, at the end, it is a failure of management and a failure of employees. It is the responsibility of all Air Indians to keep us customers satisfied. It is the only way you are going to get business, and survive.

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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10 comments

  1. True. I want to add on this Last time i traveled air-india was Pune-Srinagar.We had a plane change at IGI. Believe me PNQ-DEL, it was Air-Indias and probably Airbus`s oldest flying 320 VT-EPB and the seats, OMG torn apart. The underneath seat dunlop was almost off-seat so we manually had to adjust/fit so as to be comfortable. Yes so much of turbulence we felt. Only good thing was food served was better and tastier.
    But i must also say the DEL-SXR on A321 was great experience – better leg space, well mantained aircraft, cleaner cabin and comfortable seats.
    I wonder why Air India under-utilized its B747

    • Indraneel Upponi

      The A321 aren’t in a good shape either. I was onboard AI633 from BOM-BHO sometime in April last week operated by A321. Upon reaching the gate at BHO, the captain announced that the APU of the aircraft wasn’t working and the engines had to be kept on for sometime till the APU on the ground at BHO, which was attached to AI634, got free. The captain was honest and he said that out of 2 APUs on the ground at BHO, only 1 was working. As a result, no one could disembark for at least 20 mniutes. After a long wait, the captain turned off the engines without the APU attached which resulted in the lights and ACs going off inside the aircraft and we could finally get out.

      • I travelled in January on Air India, perhaps VT-EPP if my memory is right.
        Yes my Delhi-Pune flight on A321 also hadnt its IFE working. I think Air India Engineering Team also is not up to mark when it comes to maintaining the Aircrafts. Today i prefer jet Airways, although my first preference was always Air India being the name it used to have in earlier times.

        • Indraneel Upponi

          On at least 90% of my flights with AI, the IFE wasn’t working. Even though I was their customer, I did not gather courage to ask the reason behind it, looking at the grumpy faces of the cabin crew.

  2. Have they stopped naming aircraft?

    • Have not seen names recently. Last named ones were the first few 777s(leased from United?). Spicejet follows naming( I liked the one named “Chilli”) Do they have “Garam Masala” ? Vistaara- any names??

    • AI stopped naming aircraft from the 787 fleet onwards. The erstwhile Indian Airlines never had this practice. The 747s were named after Emperors, the 747-400s were named after temples and caves (if I remember), the A310s were named after rivers, the 777s were named after states.

    • AI stopped naming aircraft from the 787 fleet onwards. The erstwhile Indian Airlines never had this practice. The 747s were named after Emperors, the 747-400s were named after temples and caves (if I remember), the A310s were named after rivers, the 777s were named after states.

  3. Devesh, Do you think Mr. CMD is unaware of Air India’s state of affairs? Iam sure he does very well,(+ some some unwritten things too !).. If he feigns ignorance, he is unfit to be the CMD. He just needs to act NOW, show results, and get back loyal customers and market share.