This is not a joke. It’s a true story. But why does Air India have such a bad reputation?
Air India is the flag carrier airline of India and is the third largest airline in the country (after IndiGo and Jet Airways) in terms of domestic market share. Air India has two major domestic hubs at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, with secondary hubs at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata and at Chennai International Airport.
Air India was once the largest operator in the Indian subcontinent with a market share of over 60%. Mismanagement, indifferent financial performance, poor customer service, as well as labour troubles have relegated Air India back in to fourth place, even behind low cost carriers like IndiGo and SpiceJet.
One of the main reasons Air India has such a poor reputation is because of its inability to fly from A to B without causing delay and disruption. Many of the delays will encounter with AI are simply because of poor maintenance of the aircraft, or a complete cancellation as AI no longer think the flight will make money, so they cancel it at the last minute, often leaving their passengers stranded until the next day (or longer). After all, it was recently revealed that only 9 of Air India’s daily 370 flights across the globe were profitable, so why would they care if they just cancelled one? It doesn’t make any difference to them.
Throughout the aviation industry, Air India is known for a couple of good things, though. First off, its cabin crew are a real credit to their company and country. I haven’t flown with AI too much, but on the flights I have taken (mainly out of necessity, such as domestic Indian routes) I have always found the cabin crew to be extremely helpful and polite. They seem to actually want to be there, and enjoy what they do, rather than see it merely as a job. Another thing, AI is known for in a positive sense is its catering. In their premium cabins (NOT economy class), Air India serves up some fantastic food, much of it true Indian cuisine, and they are really among the very best in the sky when it comes to catering to the business class and first class cabins.
However, AI has been plagued with problems with its staff down the years, and in many ways they have became an airline nobody wants to work for. In fact, Air India in March 2015 held a job fair for prospective pilots and nobody bothered applying, such is the airline’s poor reputation for the way they treat their staff.
Air India currently serves 60 domestic destinations and 31 international destinations in 19 countries across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was introduced in 2012 and AI have been flying it to Singapore, among other places. Fans of Air India are very proud to have such a modern aircraft in its fleet, and their 787 now flies to Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka, London, Melbourne, and Dubai. Air India are the only airline of the Sub-Continent to own and operate the 787, however it is reported that even ALL of these routes operated by the 787 are currently losing money.
How does Air India compare to its rivals? I think Sri Lankan Airlines are the best carrier from the region, closely followed by the sleeping giant that is Biman Bangladesh. Air India has some nice things going for it – such as its cabin crew and premium catering – but I would never book a flight with them unless I really had to.