Thursday, June 25, 2009

No bailout for Air India

Air India is lobbying furiously for a massive bailout. Most airlines around the world are sick; so its no surprise that Air India, which is a particularly badly run airline, is in deep trouble. The mood these days is in favour of bailouts of whoever shouts loudest or scares the most. But look at what Air India is reported to be asking

- They want Rs 15,000 crores ($ 3bn plus)
- They want foreign airlines’ “sixth freedom rights” – the right to operate to multiple destinations in India to be reviewed (read stopped)
- They want capacities of foreign airlines to be frozen to give Air India “breathing space”
- They want to stop private Indian airlines from operating to areas like the Gulf so that Air India can “gain”.

All in the name of “public interest”.

Hello ! The cheek to even make such a demand. Air India – do you think the tax payer and the poor flying customer are idiots ? You guys just don’t get it – you are in business to serve a customer, not to screw him.

Just look at yourself in the mirror. You are a bloated, inefficient, organization. Granted its not all your doing – politicians and bureaucrats have long pillaged you. Unions have ensured that you cannot succeed. But the fact is that you are an airline no one wants to fly in. Millions of Indians travel abroad, many for the first time. They would love to travel in a familiar Indian environment. They don’t particularly like foreign airlines, many of whom treat Indians condescendingly. But it should tell you something that no one would willingly choose you over even Air France.

The government should not succumb to the temptation of playing Sir Galahad to an ugly crone. Take Air India into bankruptcy. Force it to restructure and come out leaner and somewhat resembling an airline rather than the employment agency it is now. Make it sell its bits and pieces. If an icon of America, General Motors, can go through this, so can Air India, which is no icon. If Air India can do all these things, help it along. If it can’t, or won’t, shut it down.

I am a consumer and a taxpayer. I am not prepared to do charity for Air India.

JRD Tata must be turning in his grave.