While the aviation ministry appears keen to turnaround debt-laden Air India with the government injecting thousands of crores of taxpayer's money, abrupt flight cancellations, perpetual delays and acute staff shortage at southern bases could put a spanner in its works.
The ailing airline's crew seems to have no intention of fulfilling the ministry's mandate to cut losses and turnaround.
Aviation minister Ajit Singh, worried by the projected net shortfall of Rs. 404 crore per month in AI, appointed a committee headed by an IIM Ahmedabad professor last week to suggest cost-cutting measures and cut down wasteful expenditure.
Cost cutting, it seems, is the last thing senior AI officials are bothered about.
"Stewardesses who used to operate the Chennai-Dubai-Chennai flight on a quick return basis without halting at Dubai are now operating the Chennai-Colombo-Chennai flight prior to operating the Chennai-Dubai flight, and as a result are forced to take a break at Dubai, whereby the company incurs expenditure by way of hotel accommodation and forex allowances for cabin crew," said an official on the condition of anonymity.
Pilots trained on the new Dreamliners continue to commute to Delhi and Mumbai from southern bases, incurring more expenditure in terms of hotel accomodation and travel allowance, besides occupying revenue seats when flights are overbooked.
"Old style of manipulation continues in AI," said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert.
"The Trivandrum and Calicut bases function with only two commanders and even a major base like Chennai does not have a sufficient number of commanders," stated another official.
A single pilot reporting sick for a flight will then have to be replaced by another pilot who is rostered for a later flight and the chain reaction it sets off is enough to disrupt the entire roster for the remaining days.