On 15th October 1932 Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, a prominent figure in Indian commerce, completed one of the most historical flights of Indian aviation, from Karachi to Bombay thus laying the foundation stone for Tata Air Services. What would later become of this venture, couldn’t possibly be foreseen by the founder himself. From Tata Air Services to Tata Airlines up until Air India, the story of this majestic airline is a long road full of twists and turns.
Tata Airlines was regarded as one of the most prosperous airlines in the world, gaining recognition from the United States and London to being an inspiration for Singapore Airlines as well. The experience, as described by travelers was one to remember. From an exquisite ambiance and top-notch cuisine to decorations of artworks, this airline was coined the “Palace in the sky”.
So what went wrong? Things took an unsettling turn when in 1953, the Government of India decided to nationalize the corporation. J.R.D. Tata was disheartened. Being an avid aviator himself, he was being asked to give up his dream, the company he founded. But, be as it may, Tata continued to be the Chairman of the airlines with little or no say in important matters. With the politicians and less experienced managers sitting at the top, the company’s downfall could have been easily predicted.
Air India went on to incur huge amounts of debts. In 2007 alone, the company bore a massive Rs. 541 crore loss, almost double of what another airline, Indian Airlines suffered. Since both of these companies were under the control of the government, to compensate for these losses it was decided to merge them into one, which would be known as National Aviation Co. of India Ltd.Even so, the government suffered major drawbacks, and could not reimburse its investors. Before this merger, the downfall of the airlines was already imminent. The poor leadership was unable to make wise decisions, and with unnecessary expenses and incompetency to manage the situation, the company suffered a total loss of 770 billion dollars.
This situation was finally put to bed by the government when it decided to privatize Air India in 2017. Over a long process of bidding and legal processes, finally, on 8th October 2021, the airline was sold to its original owner, the Tata group for Rs. 180 billion. Now we wait, and let the airline unfurl its fate. Will it emerge once again on the top, or will it keep scraping the bottom of the barrel? Only time will tell.