Air India

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Air India
Air India Logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1932
Commenced operations 15 October 1932 (1932-10-15)
Secondary hubs
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer program Flying Returns
Airport lounge Maharaja Lounge
Alliance Star Alliance[1]
Fleet size 109 (excluding subsidiaries)[2]
Destinations 85
Company slogan Your Palace in the Sky
Parent company Air India Limited
Headquarters Indian Airlines House, Delhi, India[3]
Key people Ashwani Lohani, Chairman and MD
Revenue Increase 197.81 billion (US$3.0 billion) (FY 2014–15)[4]
Operating income Increase 5.41 billion (US$81 million) (FY 2014–15)[5]
Net income Decrease 21.71 billion (US$320 million) (FY 2014–15)[5]
Employees 23,044 (July 2014)

Air India is the flag carrier airline of India and the third largest airline in India in terms of passengers carried. It is owned by Air India Limited, a Government of India enterprise and operates a fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft serving various domestic and international destinations. It is headquartered in New Delhi.[3] Air India has major domestic hubs at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai and secondary hubs at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata and Chennai International Airport.[6][7] Air India became the 27th member of Star Alliance on 11 July 2014.[1][8]


Early years (1932–1945)[edit]

Tata Air Service
Air India Boeing 707-320B (1976)

Air India had its origin in Tata Sons, founded by J. R. D. Tata in 1932. [9] Tata won a contract to carry mail for Imperial Airways in April 1932 and the aviation department of Tata Sons was formed. On 15 October 1932, Tata flew a single-engine De Havilland Puss Moth carrying air mail from Karachi to Bombay and the aircraft continued to Madras piloted by Vincent.[10] The airline fleet consisted of a Puss Moth aircraft and a Leopard Moth.[11][12] Initial service included weekly airmail service between Karachi and Madras via Ahmedabad and Bombay. In its first year of operation, the airline flew 160,000 miles, carrying 155 passengers and 10.71 ton of mail and made a profit of 60,000 rupees.[13][14] Later, the airline launched a domestic flight from Bombay to Trivandrum with a six-seater Miles Merlin.[15] In 1938, it was re-christened as Tata Air Services and later as Tata Airlines. Delhi and Colombo were added to the destinations in 1938.[10]

Post Independence (1946–2000)[edit]

After World War II, regular commercial service was restored in India and Tata airlines became a public limited company on 29 July 1946 under the name Air India. After the Indian independence, 49% of the airline was acquired by the Government of India in 1948. On 8 June 1948, a Lockheed Constellation L-749A named Malabar Princess (registered VT-CQP) took off from Bombay bound for London Heathrow marking the airline's first international flight. On 25 August 1953, the Government of India exercised its option to purchase a majority stake in the carrier and established Air India International Limited. The domestic services were transferred to Indian Airlines as a part of restructuring. In 1954, the airline took delivery of its Lockheed Constellation L-1049 and inaugurated services to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore.

On 21 February 1960, Air India International inducted its first Boeing 707–420 named Gauri Shankar (registered VT-DJJ), thereby becoming the first Asian airline to induct a jet aircraft in its fleet.[16][17] The airline inaugurated services to New York on 14 May 1960. On 8 June 1962, the airline's name was officially truncated to Air India and on 11 June 1962, Air India became the world's first all-jet airline. In 1971, the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 747-200B named Emperor Ashoka (registered VT-EBD) and introduced of the Palace in the Sky livery and branding. In 1986, Air India took delivery of its first Airbus A310-300. In 1993, Air India took delivery of a Boeing 747-400 named Konark (registered VT-ESM) and operated the first non-stop flight between New York and Delhi.

Later years (2000-)[edit]

In 2000–01, attempts were made to privatise Air India.[18][19][20][21] In 2000, Air India introduced services to Shanghai, China. In May 2004, Air India launched a wholly owned low cost subsidiary called Air-India Express connecting cities in India with the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Until 2007, Air India mainly operated on International long-haul routes while Indian Airlines operated on domestic and international short-haul routes. In 2007, Air India and Indian Airlines were merged under Air India Limited.[22] The airline was invited to be a part of the Star Alliance in 2007.[23]

On 23 May 2001, the Ministry of Civil Aviation charged Michael Mascarenhas, the then managing director with corruption. According to the ministry reports, the airline lost approximately 570 million (US$8.5 million) because of extra commissions that Mascarenhas sanctioned and he was later suspended from the airline.[24] In December 2013, the airline appointed veteran pilot SPS Puri as its head of operations. The appointment was criticised by the Air India pilot's union as Captain Puri allegedly has multiple violations to his name.[25]

The combined losses for Air India and Indian Airlines in 2006–07 were 7.7 billion (US$110 million) and after the merger, it went up to 72 billion (US$1.1 billion) by March 2009.[26][27] In July 2009, State Bank of India was appointed to prepare a road map for the recovery of the airline.[28] The carrier sold three Airbus A300 and one Boeing 747-300M in March 2009 for $18.75 million to finance the debt.[29] By March 2011, Air India had accumulated a debt of 425.7 billion (US$6.4 billion) and an operating loss of 220 billion (US$3.3 billion), and was seeking 429.2 billion (US$6.4 billion) crore from the government.[30][30][31] A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General blamed the decision to buy 111 new planes and the ill timed merger with Indian Airlines for the poor financial situation.[32][33] In August 2011, the invitation to join Star Alliance was suspended as a result of its failure to meet the minimum standards for the membership.[34][35] The government pumped 32 billion (US$480 million) into Air India and in March 2012.[36][37]

On 1 March 2009, Air India made Frankfurt Airport at as its international hub for onward connections to United States from India. However, the airline shut down the Frankfurt hub on 30 October 2010 because of high operating costs.[38] In 2010, financially less lucrative routes were terminated and the airline planned to open a new hub for its international flights at Dubai.[39] In 2012, a study commissioned by the Corporate Affairs Ministry recommended that Air India should be partly privatised.[40] In 2013, the then Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh stated privatisation was the key to the airline's survival.[41] However, the opposition led by the BJP and the CPI(M) slammed the Government.[42]

In May 2012, the carrier invited offers from banks to raise up $800 million via external commercial borrowing and bridge financing.[43] In 2013, the Indian government planned to delay equity infusion of 300 billion (US$4.5 billion) that was slated to be infused into the airline slowly over a period of eight years.[44] In January 2013, Air India cleared the pending dues through funds raised by selling and leasing back the newly acquired Boeing 787 Dreamliners.[45][46] In March 2013, the airline posted its first positive EBITDA after almost 6 years and 20 per cent growth in its operating revenue since the previous financial year.[47][48] In May 2012, the airline was fined $80,000 by the U.S Transportation Department for failing to post customer service and tarmac delay contingency plans on its website and adequately inform passengers about its optional fees.[49] Air India became the 27th member of Star Alliance on 11 July 2014.[1][8] As of 2015, Air India is the third largest carrier in India, after IndiGo and Jet Airways.[50][51][52]

Corporate affairs and identity[edit]

The Air India Building, Nariman Point, Mumbai. It moved its headquarters in 2013 to Indian Airlines House, Delhi.


Air India Limited is headquartered at the Indian Airlines House, New Delhi.[53] Air India moved its headquarters from Air India Building, Mumbai to Delhi in 2013. The former headquarters is a 23-storey tower on Marine Drive and was one of the targets of the 1993 Bombay bombings.[3][54]


Cargo Airbus A310-300F




Air India's mascot is the Maharajah (Emperor). It was introduced in 1956 by Bobby Kooka and Umesh Rao.[55] Kooka stated that,"We call him a Maharajah for want of a better description. But his blood isn't blue. He may look like royalty, but he isn't royal". The Maharajah was given a makeover in 2015 and the brand is now represented by a youthful version of the same.[56]

Logo and livery[edit]

1940–2007 Air India logo
An Air India Boeing 747-400 aircraft used as Air India One

Air India's color scheme is red and white. The aircraft were painted in white with red palace style carvings on the outside of the windows and the airline's name written in red. The name is written in Hindi on one side and in English on the other. The window scheme was designed in line with the slogan Your Palace in the Sky.[57] The air planes were earlier named after Indian kings and landmarks. In 1989, to supplement its Flying Palace livery, Air India introduced a new livery that was mostly white with a golden spinning wheel on a red tail. The livery was dropped after two years and the old scheme was returned.

The first logo of Air India was a centaur, a stylised version of Sagittarius shooting an arrow in a circle representing the wheel of Konark. The logo chosen by founder J. R. D. Tata was introduced in 1948 and represented the airline until 2007.[58] On 22 May 2007, Air India and Indian unveiled their new livery consisting of a Flying Swan with the Konark Chakra placed inside it. The flying swan was morphed from the centaur logo and the chakra was derived from Indian's erstwhile logo.[59] On 15 May 2007, Air India refreshed its livery, making the Rajasthani arches along the windows slightly smaller, extending a stylised line from the tail of the aircraft to the nose and painting the underbelly red. The new logo features on the tail and the engine nacelles. A red and orange line run parallel to each other from the front door to the rear door.[55]


Air India Airbus A321 at Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Air India serves 60 domestic destinations and 31 international destinations in 19 countries. Air India's short-haul routes mainly include domestic routes and cities in South East Asia and Middle East. For short-haul routes, Airbus A320 family aircraft are used with the Boeing 787 aircraft introduced on selected domestic routes on 19 September 2012.[60] The airline operates long distance services using Boeing 777-200LR, 777-300ER, 747 and 787 aircraft.[61][62]

Codeshare agreements[edit]

Air India has code-sharing agreements with the following airlines:[63][64]


Airbus A321-200
Boeing 747-400
Boeing 777-200LR
Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner


As of December 2015, the Air India fleet consists of the following aircraft (including leased aircraft and excluding subsidiaries):[67][68]

Air India Fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Passengers Notes
F J Y Total
Airbus A319-100 22 8 114 122 six aircraft to be phased out[69]
144 144
Airbus A320-200 26 168 168
20 125 146
Airbus A320neo 14 168 168 to be dry-leased from April 2017[70][71]
Airbus A321-200 20 12 172 184
Boeing 747-400 5 12 26 385 423
Boeing 777-200LR 3 8 35 195 238 one stored[72]
Boeing 777-300ER 12 3 4 35 303 342
Boeing 787-8 21 6 18 238 256
Total 109 23  
Fleet info

On 4 August 1993, Air India took the delivery of its first Boeing 747-400, registered VT-ESM and named Konark. The aircraft was officially withdrawn from use and scrapped at Mumbai in May 2011.[73] The airline's first Boeing 777-200LR aircraft was delivered on 26 July 2007. The aircraft was named after the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.[74] Air India received its first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on 9 October, the same year. The aircraft was named Bihar.[75] Air India received its first Boeing 787 dreamliner aircraft on 6 September 2012[76] and commenced flights on 19 September 2012.[77]

Apart from the Boeing aircraft, Air India also operates a wide range of Airbus aircraft. In 1989, Indian Airlines introduced the Airbus A320-200 aircraft, which Air India now uses to operate both domestic and international short haul flights. In 2005, Indian Airlines introduced the smaller, A319, which are now used mainly on domestic and regional routes. After the merger in 2007, Air India inducted the biggest member of the A320 family, the A321, to operate mainly on international short haul and medium haul routes. At the same time, Air India leased the Airbus A330s to operate on medium-long haul international routes. As of February 2013, Air India operates 62 A320 family aircraft.

Air India One (also referred to as AI-1 or AIC001) is the call sign of any Air India aircraft carrying the Prime Minister of India, President of India or the Vice President of India.[78][79] Air India One operates on one of the five Boeing 747-400s that Air India currently owns as VIP flights. Customised Embraer 135 and Boeing Business Jets are also used.[80][81][82]

New aircraft orders

On 11 January 2006, Air India announced an order for 68 jets – 8 Boeing 777-200LR Worldliners, 15 Boeing 777-300ER,18 Boeing 737-800 and 27 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. The 18 737s ordered were later transferred to Air India Express. Air India has taken the delivery of 20 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners so far. All remaining dreamliners are expected to be delivered by 2016.[83]

Fleet restructuring

As a part of the financial restructuring, Air India sold five of its eight Boeing 777-200LR to Etihad Airways in December 2013. According to the airline, plans for introducing ultra-long flights with service to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles were canceled due to factors like high fuel prices and weak demand.[84] In April 2014, the airline decided to sell its remaining three Boeing 777-200LR as well, citing higher operating costs.[85] On 24 April 2014, Air India issued a tender for leasing 14 Airbus A320 aircraft for up to six years, to strengthen its domestic network.[86]

Aircraft operated[edit]

Apart from the aircraft listed above, Air India operated several other aircraft. Air India operated the De Havilland Puss Moth, De Havilland Fox Moth, Waco YQC-6, de Havilland Dragon Rapide, Percival Petrel, Douglas DC-2, DC-3, Vickers VC.1 Viking, Lockheed L-749 Constellation, Douglas DC-4 and the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation up-to 1960. Thereafter, Air India started operating the Boeing 707 and the De Havilland Comet.[89]



Business Class seats on board the Boeing 777-200LR/777-300ER
First Class seats on board the Boeing 777-200LR/777-300ER

The Boeing 777-200LR/777-300ER aircraft operated on long haul flights can accommodate 342 passengers in a three class configuration viz. first (3), business (35) and economy (303).[90] The Boeing 747-400 can accommodate 423 passengers in the same 3 class configuration in a 12-26-385 seating arrangement.[91] Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A321 flights have a two class configuration and can accommodate 256 (18B/238E) and 172 (20B/152E) passengers.[92][93] Airbus A320 aircraft operated on domestic and short haul international flights can accommodate either 168 in economy configuration or 140 (20B/120E) in a two class configuration.[94][95] Airbus A319 aircraft have a full economy 144 seat configuration.[96] Air India serves meals on all domestic and international flights.

In-flight entertainment[edit]

Air India In-Flight entertainment screen

Air India's Airbus A320 family aircraft are equipped with Thales i3000 in-flight entertainment system. Passengers can choose from five channels airing Hindi and English content. Air India's Airbus A330s have widescreen displays in Business and Economy classes but no personal IFEs. The Boeing 777-200LR, 777-300ER, 747-400 and 787 aircraft are equipped with Thales on demand in-flight entertainment systems on which passengers can choose from content in English and other Indian languages.[97] Showtime is the official entertainment guide published by Air India. Air India has an official in-flight magazine Shubh Yatra (meaning Happy Journey in Sanskirt). Shubh Yatra is a bilingual magazine published in English and Hindi and covers a range of topics from travel and culture to lifestyle and entertainment.[98]

Frequent flyer programme[edit]

'Flying Returns' is Air India's frequent flyer programme

Flying Returns is Air India's frequent flyer programme. It is India's first frequent flyer programme and is shared by Air India and its subsidiaries. A member can earn mileage points and redeem them during future travel. On higher fares, passengers will earn bonus miles and clock mileage points. The points can be redeemed for awards travel on Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.[99]

Premium lounges[edit]

Air India London Heathrow Airport lounge
Air India's Maharaja Lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City

The Maharaja Lounge (English: Emperor's Lounge) is available for the use of First and Business class passengers. Air India shares lounges with other international airlines at international airports that do not have a Maharaja Lounge available.[100] There are eight Maharaja Lounges:


Awards and recognitions[edit]

  • Preferred International Airline for travel and hospitality from Awaz Consumer Awards (2006)[101]
  • Best Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative by Galileo Express Travel World[102]
  • Best Short-Haul International Airline by Galileo Express Travel World (2008)[102]
  • The Mercury Award from the International Flight Catering Association for finest in-flight catering services (1994, 2003)
  • Amity Corporate Excellence Award by Amity University [102]
  • Reader's Digest Trusted Brand[102]
  • Dun and Bradstreet Award (D&B), first in terms of revenue out of the top airline companies out of India[102]
  • Best South Asian Airline, Mice and business travel publications[102]
  • Cargo Airline of the Year, 26th Cargo Airline of the Year Awards[103]
  • The Montreal Protocol Public Awareness Award by the United Nations for environmental protection[104]

The airline entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a civil airliner. Over 111,000 people were evacuated from Amman to Mumbai  – a distance of 4,117 km, by operating 488 flights from 13 August to 11 October 1990  – lasting 59 days. The operation was carried out during Persian Gulf War to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait and Iraq.[105] Air India became the first all-jet airline in June 1962. Air India's security department became the first aviation security organisation in the world to acquire ISO 9002 certification in 31 January 2001.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 27 December 1947, an Air India DC-3 (registered VT-AUG) carrying 23 people (19 passengers and 4 crew) and en route from Karachi to Bombay, lost control after take-off from Karachi International Airport due to an instrument failure and crashed, killing all on board. This was the airline's first fatal accident.[106]
The Air India Memorial in Toronto, Canada dedicated to the victims of Air India Flight 182
  • On 7 May 1990, Air India Flight 132 Emperor Vikramaditya, a Boeing 747-237B (registered VT-EBO) flying on the London-Delhi-Bombay route carrying 215 people (195 passengers and 20 crew) caught fire on touch down at Delhi airport due to a failure of an engine pylon to wing attachment. There were no fatalities but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair and written off.[116]

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External links[edit]

Media related to Air India at Wikimedia Commons