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Air India back to the Tatas, takes off with 'renewed passion'

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Air India back to the Tatas, takes off with 'renewed passion'

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Industry experts and senior officials are united in the view that had Air India not got a buyer in this round of divestment, it would have meant the shutdown of the loss-making airline. But, seven decades later it is a homecoming for Air India, founded originally as Tata Airlines.

Air India back to the Tatas, takes off with 'renewed passion'
The Maharaja is back to its founder. The Tata Group completed the takeover of Air India on January 27 and the airline ceased to be a government undertaking.
"Totally delighted that the takeover process of Air India is complete. We are very happy to have Air India back in the Tata Group. We look forward to working with everyone in creating a world-class airline," Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran told journalists at Air India headquarters in New Delhi after the takeover ceremony. The ceremony was attended by senior bureaucrats, executives from Air India and the Tata Sons Group.
Industry experts and senior officials are united in the view that had Air India not got a buyer in this round of divestment, it would have meant the shutdown of the loss-making airline. But, seven decades later it is a homecoming for Air India, founded originally as Tata Airlines.
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Tata Airlines was founded by renowned industrialist and former chairman of Tata Sons JRD Tata in 1932. The airline was renamed Air India when it became a public Iimited company in 1946. JRD Tata, a noted aviator, himself operated the first flight of Tata Airlines from Karachi to Mumbai, then Bombay, in 1932.
JRD Tata remained as Air India chairman until 1978 and even Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons Ratan Tata was also at the helm of Air India between 1986 and 1989. Hence, Air India and the Tatas have a long shared history and it was only fitting that they reclaimed the Maharaja airline after emerging as the highest bidder in the divestment process and bought Air India for Rs 18,000 crore.
With Air India, the Tata Group has also received a 100 percent stake in its subsidiary low-cost carrier Air India Express, which focuses on short-haul international operations especially in the Middle East market, and complete 50 percent share of Air India in the joint venture Air India SATS, which provides airport services on the ground and cargo handling.
With this transaction, the Tata Group now has four airlines in its umbrella- full-service carriers Vistara and Air India, and budget airlines AirAsia India and Air India Express. It is largely expected that there will be a combination of synergies between Air India and Vistara and between AirAsia India and Air India Express and a more streamlined aviation structure will emerge but the Tata Group is yet to provide clarity in this regard.
Day one for Air India under the Tata Group kick-started with a fresh welcome message by the pilots for the passengers departing on flights scheduled for January 28. "…welcome aboard this historic flight, which marks a special event. Today, Air India officially becomes a part of the Tata Group again, after seven decades. We look forward to serving you on this and every Air India flight with renewed commitment and passion," the message read.
In line with this in-flight message, it is learnt that the new management aims to immediately work on the customer experience and on-time performance of the airline. The cabin crew has been asked to be more presentable and a detailed SOP on grooming and interaction with passengers and ground staff is being prepared.
The airline has also brought in changes to its in-flight menu and an extensive culinary experience is in the pipeline for Air India flyers. The airline has been particularly asked to improve its on-time performance, which has been the worst as per the latest government data. There are also plans to revamp the aircraft interiors and fleet but as per officials, there are no disruptive plans or major changes in the pipeline and the revamping will take place as smoothly as possible.
The Tatas also took onboard nearly 13,500 permanent and contractual employee strength of Air India and Air India Express. The government had clarified in October 2021 that the Tata Group will be mandated to retain all permanent employees for a minimum period of one year.
Post that, employees can be offered voluntary retirement. The government had also said the employees will be given gratuity, provident fund benefits and post-retirement medical benefits of employees will be protected by the government.
"In accordance with the applicable laws, the qualified bidder, post disinvestment, shall continue to provide Gratuity benefits and PF benefits to the employees. The arrangement with the employees and Life Insurance Corporation of India for administrating the existing Air India and Indian Airlines employee's Self Contributory Superannuation Pension Fund Trust will continue. Further, with regard to the medical benefits, they are to be made available to the retired and eligible retiring AI beneficiaries by the government," minister of state for civil aviation General (Dr) VK Singh (Retired) told Lok Sabha in a written reply on December 16.
It is learnt that the new management committee of Air India has retained all four directors of the former board of Air India, Director Finance Vinod Hejmadi, Director commercial Meenakshi Mallik, Director HR Amrita Sharan, and Director Operations Captain RS Sandhu.
The management committee is currently being steered by Tata Sons senior vice president Nipun Aggarwal and the committee is set to add more independent directors and the CEO in some time but until these executives complete their clearances, it will be a four-member committee led by Aggarwal to oversee the airline's operations.
With the second-largest fleet under its wings, it remains to be seen what kind of flight Air India takes under the Tata reins.
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