Tracing Air India's eight-decade-long journey

By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jan 27, 2022 06:33 AM IST

The move of Air India's disinvestment started in 2001 by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But the government finally got success in October 2021, when it announced that the bid by Tata Group has been accepted.

Air India is expected to return to the Tata Group after eight decades, which saw the airline witnessing several ups and downs. The central government, in a bid to complete the disinvestment process, is expected to hand over the airline to Tata Group today.

Air India is likely to be handed over to the Tata Group on Thursday.(HT File Photo)
Air India is likely to be handed over to the Tata Group on Thursday.(HT File Photo)

The process started two decades ago, when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee invited bids to sell the government's 40 per cent stake in the national carrier. Singapore Airlines and Tata Group showed interest, but the disinvestment process could not be completed.

Since then, the government has tried to sell the airline, burgeoning with losses, to raise funds. It finally succeeded in its bid in October last year.

The foundation

Air India was founded by industrialist Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (as Tata Airlines) in 1932 and over the next few decades, it grew into India's flagship international carrier.

The first scheduled flight took off from Karachi and brought air mail and some passengers to Bombay. It went further to Chennai.

In 1939, its routes were extended to Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Colombo and Lahore.

A public company

In 1946, Tata Airlines was converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Limited. Two years later, the coverage was expanded internationally - to Cairo, Geneva and London from Bombay - and Air-India International Limited was formed.


The government of India nationalised all Indian airlines in 1953 and created two corporations - Indian Airlines for domestic flights and Air-India International for worldwide services. The latter's name was changed to Air India in 1962.

The national carrier expanded its international routes and cargo operations in the following years.

Govt allows private airlines

The central government allowed private airlines in 1994, which put additional strain on Air India. It began posting losses and in 2017, Indian Airlines and Air India were merged.

The government aggressively began exploring ways to privatise the airline in 2017 and finally found success in October 2021.

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