This Boeing 787 Dreamliner is supposed to be the sixth 787 that Air India is supposed to take delivery of.

This Boeing 787 Dreamliner is supposed to be the sixth 787 that Air India is supposed to take delivery of.

Air India is going through some pretty difficult times and many are questioning their future. Heather Timmons with the New York Times recently shared a story on how a new Air India employee made a horrific discovery on one of their flights that clearly highlights the airline’s current lack of oversight.

The new pilot made a visit to the cockpit during a flight and discovered both pilots had covered the windows with newspaper to block out the sun — an obvious violation.

This is only one of many complaints the state-run airline has received recently and passengers are noticing. The airline used to be the primary airline in India, but has since been surpassed by Kingfisher, IndiGo and Jet Airways since India’s airline industry was deregulated almost 20 years go.

During the last fiscal year, Air India lost about $1 billion in taxpayer money. Currently, there is a solid movement for the Indian government to remove themselves from the airline business.

Even with the outside pressure, both a spokes person for Air India and India’s new civil aviation minister, Vayalar Ravi,  have stated the airline will not shut down and will remain under governmental control.

Ravi has admitted that there has been poor management in the past and that the airline has bought too many planes. Air India changed many of their wide-bodied orders into single-aisle orders in 2006 and today there is talk that Air India might have to defer the delivery of their Boeing 787 Dreamliners due to their continuing financial crisis.

It seems the management of Air India needs to wake up. Obviously, the current plan is not working and the airline has already lost many of their customers. It takes much more money and effort to convince alienated customers to come back than it does to attract new ones. With strong competition from other airlines, Air India will need to make serious changes to survive.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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10 Comments

I’m gonna call the BS on this post. I’m not saying that it wasn’t in good faith, but I think that it is seriously ignorant.

Air India (AI) has had a tough couple years. It merged with Indian Airlines (IC) ineffectively, has been very badly managed, and is not supported by the populace in India, causing them to fly it’s competitors and throw away even more of their tax dollars. But some of the allegations that were referenced are not fair game.

For the first allegation about newspapers covering the windshield of Air India aircraft, I am concerned about the integrity of the allegation, and whether covering a windshield with newspaper is a serious issue in the firstplace. Reading through this thread (http://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/452750-air-india-bashing-gone-too-far.html) on PPRuNe, a reputed forum for professional pilots, makes it seem like while covering a windshield with newspaper completely is not a behavior that is universally looked down upon. Some pilots felt that the behavior was unsafe, while others felt that it did not compromise the safety of the plane and increased the safety of the pilots from ailments like Skin Cancer. Therefore the authors characterization of this as “a clear violation”, which would be likely taken by an uneducated reader for face value, is incorrect, and is, in my opinion, clearly slander.

Also, the integrity of journalism from the author, Heather Timmons, has been questioned, as she is a banking reporter who has no qualification in aviation at all. Her story was full of anecdotal evidence as opposed to facts from places like the manufacturer or reknowned safety consultants.

While there is widespread calls for privatization of Air India, after the infusion of capital so that they can sort out their mess, it is highly unlikely that it will happen, due to the issue that corrupt politicians take advantage of the airline, which they would be unable to do if it was private.

I request that the author maintains integrity and ensures that the unsubstantiated and incorrect claims will not be present in the future.

Thanks,
Rohit Rao
Formerly a blogger at (http://airlinenewsblog.wordpress.com)
and current FlyerTalk Air India defender/apologist

While I can appreciate your desire for journalistic integrity. Allegations of newspaper covered windshields in the cockpit, nor does defending against such allegations, do anything to help Air India’s credibility in the face of huge financial losses, and by your own admission, lack of support by the people of India.

I think the author presents a valid question. Given Air India’s current state, will they follow through on their Dreamliner orders. Obviously, if they do not, Boeing realizes very little impact because their order log for the 787 is well over 800 orders. I’m sure another airline would be happy to move up in queue to take the Air India 787s.

While I agree with your comment, I’d like to say that blogging about something (covering windsheild) which would seem like a common sense violation from the non-flying public, but is not a clear safety risk is the definition of slander. It is rhetoric which makes AI seem like an unsafe airline, when in reality, it isn’t much (if any) less safe than it’s competitors in terms of 9W, IT, etc. The lack of support from the Indian public has nothing to do with concerns about safety, but rather concerns about mismanagement in the company, and the lack of financial stability. That said, AI’s credibility is fairly strong. (you can’t say the same thing about Air India Express, but then again you can’t say the same thing about regionals in the US like Colgan).

Also, after AI recieved $500mil compensation for delayed 787 orders, I don’t think Boeing will be too happy about cancelled orders. But that is another discussion 😉 That said, I don’t honestly think that AI will cancel their orders, because the government will just pick up the paycheck afterwards anyway if they take delivery.

Regards,
Rohit

Hello Rohit,

Thanks for your comments, you bring up some interesting points. However, I still stand by my story and feel it upholds the best integrity possible.

No matter what opinions people might have, covering up the windscreen is a huge issue. Even with all the technology in the cockpit, being able to see other aircraft or other targets is a must. Put your hat on, where sun glasses, but it is not okay to cover up the windscreen, it is not safe and it is not professional.

Overall, I do not like the idea of a government running an airline. Sure, if it might be difficult for the airline to exist due to the climate of a country, then subsidies might be a good thing, but it has easily been shown that privatizing airlines in India works and the government should let Air India operate on their own.

From what I can see there is a lot of pride and ego that causes the airline to continue to be operated by the government.

David

As you could see from the thread which I linked, it is not “a huge issue” during cruise, which is when this happened (it’s not like they are covering the windshield during takeoff). It may not be “professional,” but the passengers aren’t going into the cockpit, and therefore “professional” behavior, while expected, isn’t a MASSIVE deal. According to the pilots on the link which I provided, it is safe procedure because pilots would be unable to see a target quick enough during a crash situation due to glare, and focusing on instruments/TCAS during a ILS flight plan is safer than looking out the window (VFR is a whole different story, but I doubt any pilot is stupid enough to cover the windsheild then).

I agree with you that the government of India should not be running AI. It is a taxpayer burden, mismanaged by bureaucrats. I support things like Essential Air Service in the United States, and a program like this could easily be implemented in India as well. However, I don’t feel that it is likely that Air India will be privatized due to the way politics work in India and due to currupt government officials being able to abuse the airline as long as it is in government hands.

I don’t feel that there is any pride in the way that the airline is run currently, and I feel that if the airline was privatized and given the cash to sort itself out, it would make my job of defending it much easier :D. Perhaps government pride and ego, but I feel it’s mostly because the politics and the fact that politicians like to abuse the airline that causes it to remain in government control.

The issue that I had with this article wasn’t that it criticizes Air India, quite contrary to that, there is a lot to criticize when it comes to the airline. But I feel that this article was written in a way which makes the facts seem worse than they are (“obvious violation”, “unsafe and unproffessional”, etc.), and that the author of the article doesn’t have a complete and comprehensive understanding of the airline and the government policies regarding the airline, or a complete understanding about what is considered acceptable safety procedures on an airliner. To be fair, this would take a LONG LONG time to understand, and when based on articles like the one written by Heather Timmons, which is awfully difficult to fact-check, and easy to take at face value because NYT is such a reputable source.

If you had written about how Air India is about to lose Star Alliance membership because of mismanagement and misallocation of funds that were meant to be used to make AI comply with *A standards, I would be very supportive because this is a clear issue that needs to be solved. That said, when writing about shades of gray topics like this so called “safety violation”, I feel that it is important to portray both sides of the story, so that people understand that this isn’t something which is going to crash a plane.

I hope that you understand my point of view.

Cheers,
Rohit

If you’d like to hear further arguments in favor of AI and how this “obvious violation” isn’t that big of a deal at all, feel free to look at this FlyerTalk thread:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/airlines-india/1223612-ai-bashing-gone-too-far.html

Cheers,
Rohit

No offense, but just because there are people who feel that it isn’t a big deal, does not change the fact that it is not okay. The people in the front of the plane are in charge of many lives and need to be professional and do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Some pilots screwed up and even though they do not represent the many great pilots around the world, it is just one example showing how Air India has been slipping.

I think you are concentrating a bit too much on the paper in the window part of the bigger Air India picture. Air India needs to do what is right and privatize the airline or sell off parts to already successful airlines. The paper in the window is just one small result from the larger issues the airline faces.

Believe me, I am not being hard on Air India just because. If you know my blog, you know I am VERY positive to airlines unless I feel negative attention is well deserved.

David

But I disagree with the idea that AI is “slipping”, and I guess that’s our fundamental disagreement. In the last 20 years, in the last 10 years, in the last 5 years, even in the last year or 2, AI has improved dramatically. This is a vessel of corruption in India, badly managed, an used to be one of the worst airlines in the world. Now, AI has a competitive product once you get off the ground (on the ground is still a nightmare, but improving), and the hope is that Star Alliance will force them to get their act together on the ground as well.

Either way, the point is that apart from the fact that AI looses money, your criticism seems rather harsh (though not completely undeserved).

Anu Bajpai

Paper in the side window is a safety non issue, let’s drop this now, I have travelled in commercial airliners seated in the cockpit and seen much worse, the airlines were financially very healthy too. Please have a look at Air India’s Safety record, it’s a lot better than some of US and European carriers, service in the air is infinitely superior, true the Cust Service on the Ground is shameful, but that’s due to age old problem of National Ownership. Privatisation is the only solution here. My question to the author of the article – if I pay $s , I want get to my destination Safely, Comfortably and wanting to remember and repeat the Experience, What’s Yours ?

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