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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 22 No. 8
Wednesday March 1, 2023

Campbell Likes The Maharajah

Campbell Wilson

     As expected, Air India's Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, industry veteran Campbell Wilson confirmed a 470 aircraft order Tuesday, February 28.
     In a wide-ranging presser, Wilson talked about the ‘much beloved by some’ Maharaja Brand, saying that the Maharaja is one of the “many strong assets that Air India would like to retain.
     “The new image of Air India must reflect the image of New India to appeal to all,” he said.
     Tata Group, that now owns Air India again, an airline that it had originally launched in the early 1930s, and Campbell Wilson who was enticed away from Scoot based in Singapore late last June, are shoulder to the wheel, money on the table in an all-out attempt to turn around a once great airline, that Forbes recently described as “a basket case.”
     TATA said funding for the USD$70 billion aircraft order will come from internal cash, equity and through sale-and-leasebacks. But in this on again, off again world of airline business we will have to wait and see about all of that.
     However, now with the Tata takeover, the situation is different. The carrier is more focused and agile. Air cargo veterans, we talked to, emphasized that Air India has to bring cargo to the forefront. That is simply because Air India has the largest global network for any Indian carrier – flying to America, Europe, Australia, and Japan. It already has a market that it can build upon and leverage.
     Currently Air India is going through a transformation program: Vihaan.AI.
Vihaan AI is a five-year plan that has been divided into three phases. These phases cover “many work streams to tackle the business and challenge comprehensively,” according to Wilson. “We've been working hard over the 12 months since the airline was privatized, and certainly the seven or eight months since I came and want to make this vision of creating a new Air India a reality,” he said.
     Air India has added more than 1,200 professionals to the ground staff. No hiring had been done for the last 15 years.
     “We've recruited 300 staff and deployed them at our main airports in India and around the world, as well as close to 4,2,00 cabin crew and 900 new pilots . . . We have invested in platforms, even as simple as Microsoft Outlook and office so that people will have the tools that they need to collaborate and be productive,” Wilson said.
     Wilson emphasized that cargo would be a significant part of Air India’s revenue mix. The carrier, he said, would focus on cargo and create the necessary infrastructure and capability so that it can use the opportunities in cargo. Pointing out the historic order of aircraft by Air India, Wilson said that the “newly ordered aircraft, particularly the wide-body aircraft, comes with a lot of belly cargo space.”
     Indeed, utilizing its planned belly space in its soon to be growing B777 and A350 fleet would be a great start for Air India to regain some position as a cargo carrier.

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