Its been 5 years since an aircraft with the famous Indian Airlines livery took to the skies and 6 months since any aircraft with the IC call sign took to the skies. Indian airlines is no more. The legendary flagship carrier which was proudly praised as India’s best airline in terms of service is no more. I came across some old pictures of the airline and wanted to write about the Airline.
Setup in 1953 with Mumbai as the HQ, IA took over the domestic operations from Britain’s colonial airline companies. It initially had a fleet filled with the classic Douglas Dakotas. Later on IA bought jet airliners and the A300 was brought into the fleet. The A300 type aircrafts were the longest serving ones in IA fleets and occasionally served International destinations. Indian airlines was notable for the hospitality of the flight crew and the rich Indian cuisine offered on board. Since the airline was state controlled, the airline was heavily subsidized to reduces costs and provide quality service at the same time. But as years rolled by and as newer and cheaper airlines came into the market, the flagship Indian carrier slowly started sliding backward.
The government’s efforts to sustain the airline did not work at all and the government was heavily criticized for the way the airline was handled. Huge allegations of financial irregularities were thrown at the government officials. Then the government made a desperate attempt to change the fortunes of the carrier by re branding it to “Indian” and giving the airline a face lift with a new livery and logo. Still things didn’t improve and things reached breaking point. There were massive strikes and government was helpless. Finally in February this year the airline was merged with India’s “Palace in the skies”, Air India. This provoked the airline enthusiasts who blamed the government for ruining and destroying the proud Indian Carrier.
The recent protests of the AI pilots was also partly based on the handling of IA by the government. I also blame the government for the fate of the Indian Airlines. Cost cuts, fleet size reduction could have been done to sustain the airline and retain the identity. The airline boasted a massive fleet of 76 aircrafts even in hard times. My most recent memory of flying with the Airline was about 4 years ago flying from Chennai to Delhi. The airline will forever be remembered. The government earned billions out of the airline, but failed to develop and sustain it. And the government will forever be held responsible for what happened to the beloved Indian Carrier.
Here is an image of an old Airbus A300 with registration VT-EHD at the Changi International, Singapore. (credits to airliners.net)