Indian Airlines

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Indian Airlines
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1953 (1953)
Commenced operations1 August 1953 (1953-08-01)
Ceased operations27 February 2011
Secondary hubs
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programFlying Returns
Fleet size55 excl.subsidiaries
Destinations63 excl.subsidiaries
Parent companyAir India Limited
HeadquartersNew Delhi
Key peopleRajiv Bansal (Chief Managing Director)

Indian Airlines was a state-owned airline in India that later became a division of Air India Limited before ultimately ceasing operations. It was based in Delhi and focused primarily on domestic routes, along with several international services to neighbouring countries in Asia and limited flights to the Middle East and South-East Asia. It was a division of Air India Limited after the merger of eight pre-Independence domestic airlines.

On 10 December 2005, the airline was rebranded as Indian for advertising purposes as a part of a program to revamp its image in preparation for an initial public offering (IPO).[2] The airline operated closely with Air India, India's national overseas carrier. Alliance Air was a fully owned subsidiary of Indian.[3]

In 2007, the Government of India announced that Indian Airlines would be merged into Air India Limited as its wholly owned subsidiary . As part of the merger process, a new company called the National Aviation Company of India Limited (now called Air India Limited) was established, into which both Air India (along with Air India Express) and Indian (along with Alliance Air) would be merged. Once the merger was completed on 26 February 2011, the airline – called Air India – would continue to be headquartered in Mumbai and would have a fleet of over 130 aircraft. [4]


Merger of regional airlines[edit]

Old Deep Orange logo of Indian Airlines until the mid-2000s

The airline was set up under the Air Corporations Act, 1953 with an initial capital of 32 million and started operations on 1 August 1953. It was established after legislation came into force to nationalise the entire airline industry in India. Two new national airlines were to be formed along the same lines as happened in the United Kingdom with British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways (BEA). Air India took over international routes and Indian Airlines Corporation (IAC) took over the domestic and regional routes.

Eight pre-Independence domestic airlines, Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga Airlines, Indian National Airways and Air Services of India and the Domestic wing of Air India, were merged to form the new domestic national carrier Indian Airlines Corporation. International operations of Air India Ltd. was taken over by the newly formed Air India International. Indian Airlines Corporation inherited a fleet of 99 aircraft including 74 Douglas DC-3 Dakotas, 12 Vickers Vikings, 3 Douglas DC-4s and various smaller types from the seven airlines that made it up.

Early fleet[edit]

Indian Airlines Sud Aviation Caravelle III parked at Mumbai Airport.
HS 748 built in India, operated by Indian Airlines, at Bombay Airport in 1974
Indian Airlines Boeing 737-200 in 1998

Vickers Viscounts were introduced in 1957 with Fokker F27 Friendships being delivered from 1961. The 1960s also saw Hawker Siddeley HS 748s, manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, join the fleet. The jet age began for IAC with the introduction of the pure-jet Sud Aviation Caravelle airliner in 1964, followed by Boeing 737-200s in the early 1970s. April 1976 saw the first three Airbus A300 wide-body jets being introduced. The regional airline, Vayudoot, which had been established in 1981, was later reintegrated. By 1988, Airbus A320-200s were introduced. The economic liberalisation process initiated by the Government of India in the early 1990s ended Indian Airlines' dominance of India's domestic air transport industry.

Post liberalisation[edit]

The Indian Government liberalised the private sector in mid 80s and with the emergence of new competitors, Indian Airlines faced tough competition from Jet Airways, Air Sahara, East-West Airlines, Skyline NEPC, and ModiLuft. Yet till 2005, Indian Airlines was the second-largest airline in India after Jet Airways while Air Sahara controlled 17% of the Indian aviation industry. During that time few other domestic carriers like East-West Airlines, Skyline NEPC and ModiLuft discontinued their flight operations.

Also during 1993 another government-established regional feeder airline called Vayudoot was merged with Indian Airlines but still operated as a standalone division until 1997 after which its entire flight operations were transferred to Indian Airlines and its employees absorbed into Indian Airlines and Air India.[citation needed]

Low-Cost Carrier era[edit]

Since 2003, the rise of low-cost domestic competitors Air Deccan, SpiceJet, IndiGo, GoAir and Kingfisher Airlines along with its low-cost arm Kingfisher Red led Indian to reduce air-fares. However, as of 2006, Indian Airlines was still a profit-making airline; in fact during 2004–2005 it made a record profit of ₹656.1 million.[5] Indian Airlines Limited was partly owned by the Government of India (51% of share capital) through a holding company and had 19,300 employees as of March 2007.[6] Its annual turn-over, together with that of its subsidiary Alliance Air, was well over ₹40 billions (around US$1 billion). Together with its subsidiary, Alliance Air, Indian Airlines carried a total of over 7.5 million passengers annually.[7]

Air India merger[edit]

In 2007, the Government of India announced the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines. However, while the “Indian” branding was replaced with the Air India brand in the public eye, the “IC” and “IAC” codes of IATA and ICAO respectively, and callsign “INDAIR” continued to be used on domestic flights and international flights that were operated by Airbus A320 family aircraft until 26 February 2011, when Indian Airlines ceased operating under its own brand and codes and completed its merger with Air India.[8]

The last plane to bear the Indian Airlines livery, an Airbus A319 registered as VT-SCF was repainted in the Air India livery in 2018.


Codeshare agreements[edit]

Indian had codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[9]


Airbus A320-200 in its old livery
Airbus A320-231 in its old livery in night.
Indian Airlines 50th Anniversary livery in 2003.
Airbus A320-200 in the airline's final livery

As of 2007, Indian operated an all-Airbus fleet consisting of the Airbus A320 family.

Indian Airlines fleet[10]
Aircraft In Service Passengers Notes
J Y Total
Airbus A319-100 6 14 106 120 Operated by NACIL
8 114 122
144 144
Airbus A320-200 47 20 126 146
Airbus A321-200 2 20 152 172 In Air India livery
Total 55

Former fleet[edit]

Indian Airlines former fleet[11]
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A300B2-100 10 1976 2003
Airbus A300B4-200 4 1982 2008
Beechcraft 17 1 1953 1968
Beechcraft 18 1 1953 1957
Boeing 737-200 31 1970 1999
Boeing 737-200F 5 1980 2008
de Havilland Heron 8 1955 1968
Dornier 228 4 1997 2007
Douglas C-47 Skytrain 53 1953 1978
Douglas C-54 Skymaster 6 1974
Fokker F-27 Friendship 17 1961 1994
Hawker Siddeley HS 748 19 1967 1991
Sud Aviation Caravelle 12 1963 1976
Tupolev Tu-154B 1 1989 1990 Leased from Aeroflot
1 1992 1993 Leased from Uzbekistan Airways. Written off[12]
Vickers VC.1 Viking 12 1953 1959
Vickers Viscount 700 16 1957 1974


IA logo designed by National Institute of Design

The aircraft livery used while the company was called Indian Airlines was one of the longest in continuous use in the airline industry. The logo (IA) and the livery were designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Its aircraft were mainly white, with the belly painted in light metallic grey. Above the windows, "Indian Airlines" was written in English on the starboard side and in Hindi on port side. The tail was bright orange, with its logo in white. In most of the aircraft, the logo was also painted on the engines over its bare metal colour. Also, when the company was under the title of Indian Airlines, to celebrate its 50th year of service the airline put the slogan "50 years of flying" in gold on many of their aircraft.

After the name change to Indian, the company's aircraft sported a new look inspired by the Sun Temple at Konark in Odisha. The tail of their aircraft had a partial blue wheel since practically 3/4 of the remainder is cut off. The wheel is over an orange background with the carrier's name "Indian" written in English on one side of the fuselage, and in Hindi on the other. On 15 May 2007, the Government of India released the new merger livery, which was sent to Boeing in Seattle to repaint all the new fleet coming into the new Air India. Most of the old fleets of Air India and Indian Airlines have also been painted in the new livery.[13]


In-flight meal

Indian operated short-haul Airbus A320 family aircraft. It offered 2 classes on most sectors: Economy Class and Executive class. Economy class had the typical 3-3 seating of a narrow-body Airbus aircraft. Passengers were offered complimentary meals. The Executive class seat configuration was 2–2 with a generous recline. Meals served were more lavish.

Incidents and accidents[edit]



  • On 29 August 1970, a Fokker F27 flew into high terrain near Silchar shortly after takeoff, killing the five crew members and 34 passengers.
  • On 30 January 1971, in the 1971 Indian Airlines hijacking, a Fokker F27 on a scheduled flight from Srinagar to Jammu was hijacked to Lahore by Ashraf and Hashim Qureshi, two Kashmiri terrorists. Passengers were returned to India on 2 February, but the hijackers destroyed the aircraft. India and Pakistan, blaming each other's intelligence services, each ban the other country's overflights and India-Pakistan flights until 1976.
  • On 9 August 1971, Vickers Viscount VT-DIX was damaged beyond economic repair when it overran the runway at Jaipur Airport. The aircraft was landed with a tailwind on a wet runway.[18]
  • On 9 December 1971, a Hawker Siddeley HS 748, near Chinnamanur was descending into Madurai when it flew into high terrain about 50 mi (80 km) from the airport, killing the four crew members and all 17 passengers. The accident occurred in reduced visibility during daylight hours.[19][20][21]
  • On 11 August 1972, a Fokker F27, at New Delhi lost altitude and crashed after aborting a landing. The four crew members and the 14 passengers were killed.
  • On 15 March 1973, a HAL 748-224 Series 2 (VT-EAU) crashed near Begumpet Airport during a training flight, killing all three crew on board and one person on the ground. The pilots were drunk.
  • On 31 May 1973, Flight 440, a Boeing 737 (registered VT-EAM), crashed and burned during landing at New Delhi, killing five of the seven crew and 43 of the 58 passengers.
  • On 12 October 1976, Flight 171, a Sud Aviation SE 210 Caravelle, had its right engine catch fire shortly after takeoff from Bombay. The crew attempted to return, but fuel flow to the engine was not stopped. When the fire spread through the fuselage and the hydraulic system failed, the aircraft controls failed before landing. All six crew members and their 89 passengers were killed.
  • On 17 December 1978, a Boeing 737-2A8 (VT-EAL) slid off the runway at Begumpet Airport following a wheels-up landing when the leading edge devices failed to deploy on takeoff, killing one of 132 on board and another three on the ground.[22]
  • On 4 August 1979, a HAL 748-224 Series 2 (VT-DXJ) aircraft was approaching Bombay airport at night and in poor weather when it flew into high terrain approximately 6 mi (9.7 km) from the airport, killing the four crew and their 41 passengers.


  • On 19 August 1981, Flight 557, a HAL 748 (VT-DXF) overshot the 5,783 feet (1,763 m) runway at Mangalore Airport in wet weather. The aircraft came to a halt just beyond the runway edge. While there were no fatalities, the aircraft was damaged beyond repair and was written off. One of the passengers on board was Veerappa Moily, the then Finance Minister of Karnataka.[23]
  • On 24 August 1984, Seven young hijackers demanded an Indian Airlines jetliner IC 421, on a domestic flight from Delhi to Srinagar with 100 passengers on board, be flown to the United States. The plane was taken to Lahore, Karachi and finally to Dubai where the defense minister of UAE negotiated the release of the passengers. This hijack was related to the secessionist struggle in the Indian state of Punjab. The hijacker was subsequently extradited by UAE authorities to India, who handed over the pistol recovered from the hijacker.[24][25][26]
  • On 29 September 1986, an Airbus A300B2-1C (registered VT-ELV) overrun the runway at Chennai International Airport during aborted takeoff caused by bird strike. None of 196 people on board were injured but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.[27]
  • On 19 October 1988, Flight 113, a Boeing 737 (registered VT-EAH) hit an electric mast 5 mi (8.0 km) out on approach to Ahmedabad in poor visibility, killing the six crew members and all but two of the 129 passengers.[28]


  • On 14 February 1990, Flight 605, an Airbus A320, crashed on final approach at HAL Airport, Bangalore. 92 people on board were killed and 54 survived.[29]
  • On 16 August 1991, Flight 257, Boeing 737 (registered VT-EFL) crashed on its descent into Imphal, killing all 69 occupants. The flight operating on the Calcutta-Imphal sector crashed into Thangjing hills, about 20 nautical miles (40 km) south-west of the Imphal airport. The aircraft had taken off from Calcutta and began a descent into Imphal airport with the visibility at that time being seven kilometers. However, the aircraft lost contact with Imphal airport on the Instrument Landing System. The search and rescue efforts were hampered by bad weather conditions and a slushy terrain. The probable cause of the accident was attributed to an "error on the part of the Pilot-in-Command in not adhering to the operational flight.[30]
  • On 26 April 1993, Flight 491, Boeing 737 (registered VT-ECQ) started its takeoff from Aurangabad's runway 09 in hot and humid temperatures. After lifting off almost at the end of the runway, it impacted heavily with a lorry on a highway at the end of the runway. The left main landing gear, left engine bottom cowling and thrust reverser impacted the left side of the truck at a height of nearly seven feet from the level of the road. Thereafter the aircraft hit the high tension electric wires nearly 3 km North-East of the runway and hit the ground, causing 63 Injuries and 55 fatalities.
  • On 15 November 1993, Indian Airlines Flight 440, an Airbus A300 (registered VT-EDV) executed a missed approach at Hyderabad's Begumpet Airport due to poor visibility, but the flaps failed to retract. After trying to solve the problem while flying in the vicinity of Hyderabad, the crew eventually diverted the aircraft to Chennai. The delay in diverting, and the need to fly slower due to the extended flaps, resulted in the aircraft running out of fuel on the way. The aircraft force-landed in a paddy field and was damaged beyond repair. All 262 people on board survived. Telugu actors Chiranjeevi and Venkatesh survived this crash attracting widespread attention.[31]
  • On 24 December 1999, Flight 814, an Airbus A300B2-101 (registered VT-EDW) was hijacked just after taking off from Kathmandu, Nepal to Delhi. The plane flew around different points in the subcontinent and the Middle east. It finally landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, as officials of the government of India and the Taliban negotiated. One passenger was killed and some were released. On 31 December 1999, the rest of the hostages were freed in exchange for the release of Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar.[32] Indian Airlines, India's sole domestic airline up to 1993, was hijacked 16 times, from 1971 to 1999.


Given below is a chart of trend of profitability of Indian Airlines as published in the 2004 annual report by Ministry of Civil Aviation with figures in millions of Indian Rupees.[33]

Year Operating Revenues Operating Profit(Loss)
2002 Rs. 41,015 million Rs. 1,347 million
2003 Rs. 46,498 million Rs. 1,251 million


  1. ^ "Indian Airlines Fleet Details and History". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Indian Airlines to be called 'Indian' now". 7 December 2005.
  3. ^ "Why one large airline makes economic sense". The Hindu Businessline. 30 June 2005. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
  4. ^ AI/IC complete merger Archived 1 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Indian Airlines profit up 48 p.c., The Hindu, 28 December 2005
  6. ^ "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 3 April 2007. pp. 92–93.
  7. ^ Nargundkar, Rajendra (2006). Services Marketing 2E. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. p. 412. ISBN 978-0-07-061631-8. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  8. ^ AI/IC complete merger Archived 1 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Welcome to Flying Returns". Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Indian Airlines Fleet Details and History". Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Indian Airlines fleet". Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Air India like you've never seen before". Architectural Digest India. 14 May 2018. Archived from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  15. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  16. ^ "VT-CJH Accident Description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  19. ^ Music. Manorama Online (4 April 2014).
  20. ^ The Liberation Times : Commemorating 30 Years since India's Greatest Victory Archived 15 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 21 May 2014.
  21. ^ HWH 22 aircrash Archived 29 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 21 May 2014.
  22. ^ Accident description for VT=EAL at the Aviation Safety Network
  23. ^ "Moily's close shave in Mangalore 30 years ago". The Hindu. 22 May 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  24. ^ "Longest hijack in Indian aviation history by Khalistan activists meets anti-climactic end". India Today. 15 September 1984.
  25. ^ Wadhwaney, Kishin R. (2004). Indian Airports (Shocking Ground Realities).
  26. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 737-2A8 Advanced VT-EFK Dubai Airport (DXB)". Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  27. ^ "ASN Accident Description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  28. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 737-2A8 VT-EAH Ahmedabad Airport (AMD)". Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  29. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Airbus A320-231 VT-EPN Bangalore-Hindustan Airport (BLR)". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  30. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 737-2A8 Advanced VT-EFL Imphal Municipal Airport (IMF)". Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  31. ^ Chiranjeevi 'Weeping With Fear'. (8 May 2011).
  32. ^ Brandi, Costa (2 April 2020). "How to Deal with Travel Anxiety". Meramaal. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  33. ^ "2004 Annual Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 November 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010.

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