In the centenary year of the country's civil aviation, Air India is formally emerging as the single entity for domestic and overseas operations with the 'IC' code of the erstwhile Indian Airlines being cast to history from midnight Saturday.
"Henceforth, all national and international flights, numbering nearly 100, will fly under the 'AI' code, thereby making the 'IC' code history," the National Aviation Company of India, the holding arm, of the brand, said.
"This was much awaited. It is a historic moment. Tonight's migration into AI code strengthens our resolve to emerge as the country's singular national carrier," said an elated chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav.
"I am happy to share that 'we are one'," he said, while appreciating the work of Air Indians who contributed to the successful migration to the new state-of-the-art passenger service system.
The move comes against the backdrop of 100 years of civil aviation in India. On Feb 18, 1911, Henry Piquet flew his Humber bi-plane from Allahabad to Naini, six miles (eight km) away, in Uttar Pradesh, carrying first official airmail, marking the beginning of air transport in India.
In December 1912, the Indian State Air Services in collaboration with UK based Imperial Airways introduced the London -Karachi - Delhi flight, the first international flight to and from India.
The integration also became inevitable after the decision taken in 2007 to merge Indian Airlines with Air India, along with their low-cost subsidiaries like Air India Express and Alliance Air, with the corporate entity formally called the National Aviation Company of India.
Jadhav said the migration to a single code 'AI' will bring in a lot of benefits to the passengers and they would be able to enjoy seamless travel all over the world.
"More so because this migration would also facilitate Air India's entry into Star Alliance - thus giving Air India passengers access to 1,160 airports and 181 destinations," he said.
All Air India flights departing after 00.01 hour Feb 27 will be with the new mapped AI flight number, said the company spokesperson, adding that the migration to the new system began in the early hours Saturday and was completed by the afternoon.
During the migration period, Air India had made special arrangements for emergencies with regard to new bookings, changes, frequent flyer redemption, refunds and ticketing.
According to analysts, the move will help the cash-strapped national carrier which suffered losses to the tune of Rs.5,551 crore in 2009-10, in addition to a hit of Rs.7,189 crore in the previous year, to reduce some of its administrative costs.
"The airlines would benefit by reduced administrative costs which were arising out of billing, ticketing and other services," Amber Dubey, director, aerospace and defence, KPMG, told IANS.
He said that a fast entry into the Star Alliance would also help the airline and benefit its passengers.
"This step would ensure a faster entry of the carrier into the Star Alliance, this was one of the prerequisites to joining the alliance. AI's passengers will benefit out of
this move," Dubey said.
The Air India spokesperson said all efforts are being made to keep every stakeholder in the loop.
The chairman and managing director not only wrote a detailed message on the migration process to all employees, but also ensured that customers, travel agents, global distribution system providers, airline partners and airport partners were kept informed.
Meanwhile, a dedicated number of personnel have been put on the job to send SMS messages and e-mails to passengers to keep them informed about the change.
The management has also increased the number of executives at airports to assist passengers, put up standees about change in flight codes and distributed tens of thousands of colourful leaflets at all airports to keep the passengers updated.