Unhappy with the declining efficiency standards at the loss-making Air India (AI), aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati has, in a first-of-its-kind action, issued detailed guidelines on how the airline should be run.
“Delays on account of tardy passengers are not acceptable. Monthly reports of all delayed flights with reasons should be submitted to this office,” said the guidelines issued to AI. Ministers, MPs and other VIPs often hold up flights as they arrive late.
Raju also wants AI to bring the average age of its cabin crew “on par with the best competing airlines for ensuring quicker service and lesser delays”. The average age, sources said, would be around 35. Older cabin crew will have to be shifted to ground operations.
Then, the minister wants “surplus” staff in AI to be redeployed in organisations within the aviation ministry such as Airport Authority of India and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security – a move that could turn AI, which is highly overstaffed, into a lean company. Sources said the ministry wants around 7,000 employees to be shifted out of AI.
Flight delays due to late arrival of cabin crew and pilots is unacceptable, the minister has said and has asked AI to “firmly deal” with indiscipline.
The minister has asked AI to ensure that first and business class seats are sold out, “if necessary even at discounted fares, a few hours prior to departure”. Now, these seats are mostly given to VIPs who demand free upgrades from lower classes.
Raju has directed AI to submit monthly reports on profit/loss making routes, return old leased aircraft and complete revamp of in-flight entertainment system.
“With competition set to intensify in the full-service segment with the entry of the Tata-SIA-promoted Vistara, the aviation ministry seems to be taking direct charge of AI,” said Rajji Rai, chairman, Swift Travel International, a leading travel agency.