11 Silver Estates,
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Air Marshal Ashok K. Goel (Retd.)
PVSM AVSM VM
As I Saw it- Fact File
06 Aug 2012
Vows of Indian Civil Aviation
Civil Aviation had two periods of boom, early nineties when the economy was opening. That is the time when 16 airlines, small & big started operation. Thirteen closed down within no time and three lingered on. The second boom showed its colors during the period 2000-04, especially with the concept of LCCS (Low Cost Carreer). Eight airlines came on the national scene two (Deccan & Sahara) were swallowed by bigger fish. (Deccan by King Fisher and Sahara by Jet Airways. Soon two major actors operations started staggering and stinking.
An airline started by Tata’s, was pride of India. Known as ‘Maharaja’ of civil aviation globally. Recognized for its glamorous character of operation, known for its best utilization rate and low employees rate (per aircraft), ensured high productivity. It was known for its hospitality and excellent on board service. Though there were no other players in the field till early nineties, hence no competition.
Soon (in early nineties) civil aviation sector started expanding. The airline became a civil aviation ministry’s baby to play around. Soon the ripples of mis-management started showing its color. Another spanner was thrown in and the domestic IA and AI were merged and became “Air India”. The year 2007 was the beginning of another era of mis management. The merger plan was ill conceived, not well though out, and poorly executed. Class distinction within the same organization was not a systemic approach and displayed lack of professional “Management Mantra”.
What has ailed the Air India?
Firstly: 2007 ill conceived half baked merger of IA & AI, creating a class distinction.
Secondly: Trying to expand too early and too fast. One has to understand the aircraft manufactures (OEM’s) would forecast heavy & fast boom. Forecasted 25% increase in traffic for next 5 years, their aim remains to sell their aircraft.
Thirdly: The AI board based on such forecasts placed orders for modern and ultramodern aircraft. Also recruited large no. of aircrew’s cabin crews and support staff.
Fourthly: We should have minimum of 200 hrs per aircraft per month UR, preferably 300 hrs per aircraft per month. We should not go for leasing aircraft either dry or wet lease.
Fifthly: Large no. of pilots. (As per media reports AI has nearly 1500 pilots on its strength). As per the Airline operation norm should have seven sets of crews per air craft. For example with 50 aircraft on line, (flying daily leaving aircraft on maintenance) the total no. of pilots should not be more than 700 pilots. The aim should be to ensure Utilization rate of 300 hrs per aircraft per month.
Sixthly: AI pilots are given a protected flying hrs cover of 70-80 hrs per pilot. Pilots not flying even a single hr in a month being paid flying allowance for 70 to 80 hrs. Highly irrational and unwarranted. This situation would not arise if aircrew induction is rationalized.
Air India is in a debt of Rs 50 K cr. The Govt has bailed out AI many times. The recent 58 day strike for their unreasonable demands put the AI and MOCA/the Govt in great disrepute. The passengers were put to extraordinary grief and pain, directly and indirectly (rise in air ticket prices due to high demand & low availability of seats)
This is the first time that MOCA Shri Ajit Singh decided to handle the situation with rationale and firmness. What MOCA has to do:
a. Rationalise the fleet
b. Rationalise the pilot’s status.
c. Rationalise the pay, allowance the status of pilots, cabin crews and maintenance personnel, rationalize the seniority and core competency based on their seniority in AI now. (Dis regarding whether they belonged to IA or AI.)
d. Do not take aircraft on lease if you have extra aircraft lease then out.
e. Rationalise the per aircraft manpower as per national and global standards Around 100 (+20-10). The fat and the parasites to be removed.
f. An undertaking from the pilots and other disciplines “They would not resort to strikes/fake sickness for next 5 years, till the time the airline reestablishes its health and lost glory
The attitude and the culture of the airline need to be changed I am reminded of one incident. “During 1991 I was Director Operation (Tpt & Helicopters) at Air Hq. Saddam had invaded Kuwait. Americans were to go in to Iraq. Before that, large Indian population from Iraq and Kuwait were to be evacuated. Six IL-76 aircraft of IAF were engaged in this task working alongside with AI. The sensitive areas of Bagdad, Basra and Kuwait were assigned for IL-76 operation. The IL fleet was based at Mumbai and working alongwith AI. One day (after a week of operation) Mr. Madan Lal, Commercial Director AI called me up to say Mr. Goel, “compliments to the air force crews. I wish AI had this kind of crews” my answer was “Mr. Madan Lal when an IAF crew sits in the cockpit his sole aim is mission accomplishment, where as AI crew is only counting his dollors.
Mr. Madan Lal totally agreed with my response. Can we ever see a change in our AI pilots attitude? MOCA to ponder
Started its operation just over 5 years back. Most glamour’s show, hifi in the real style of Vijaya Mallaya. The biggest liquor baron of India who has made a global mark. The first new starter who captured the overseas market, galloped the capt Gopinath’s baby “Deccan Airways” the first LCC (low cost carrier) and established himself above the equals. He was literally dictating the norms, terms and conditions to other pvt operators. Where did he go wrong?
Firstly: Too fast an expansion program
Secondly: Wanted to establish a distinct identity for KF among the equals.
Thirdly: Lop sided, ill conceived venture to distinguish KF from others In that.
a. He (VM) established exclusive cabin crew institutions, nearly half a dozen of them.
b. He(VM) interviewed and selected himself the air hostesses. That I will present the best of hostesses to my guests. (As KF referred the passengers in their announcements at the airports).
c. He (VM) provided extra ordinary hospitality and care for the passengers on their arrival at the airport.
d. He (VM) provided free snacks on board the LCC flight. Most of the time it was rubbish.
e. He himself used to welcome the passengers( through a recorded message) on board the flights.
Most of other ills were that of AI. He wanted to run the Air line business as one man show, failed to create a TEAM. The success of any business venture, is in establishing ethnically correct and economically strong practices. God save the KF.
He (VM) himself is responsible for bringing the airline (KF) to a stage of bankruptcy and nearly stands close to its ruination.