Air India back with the Tata's

The Tata Group took over Air India on Thursday, which returned to the fold after being run as a government entity for 69 years.

"Formalities have been completed. Shares have been transferred… payment has been received. As we speak, they (Tatas) are the new owners," Department of Investment and Public Asset Management secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey told reporters on Thursday.

The new owners have a 100-day plan that will be put into action to improve operational and service standards of the loss-making, debt-laden national carrier that includes on-time performance, as well as is- sues related to passenger complaints and call centres.

“We are delighted that the disbursement is completed," Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said. "We are excited to have Air India back in the Tata Group and are committed to making this a world-class airline. I warmly welcome all the employees of Air India to our group, and look forward to working together. ”

The Tata Group was the winner of the Air India privatisation exercise last year.

The government had nationalised Air India by acquiring a majority stake in the carrier from Tata Group in 1953, although founder JRD Tata continued as chairman until 1977.After the government takeover, the company was renamed Air India International Ltd and domestic services were transferred to Indian Airlines as a part of a restructuring programme. Indian Airlines and AI were merged in 2007.

"Ratan N Tata joined N Chandrasekaran in expressing his thankful recognition to the government of India and its various departments for the successful completion of this important transaction," the Tata Group said.(They) " philosophically agree with the Prime Minister's vision for the aviation sector, of making it affordable and ensuring it contributes to boosting Ease of Living for citizens".

The immediate focus will be on two key areas—a vastly improved meal service and the interface with crew and ground staff. Under the new management, the airline is said to have firmed up plans to address passengers as guests and play recorded messages by Ratan Tata, to help convey the message that change is in the air, said people with knowledge of the matter. Cabin crew members have been asked to keep a check on their body mass index (BMI) as part of efforts to spruce up the air line, they said. Experts said that the main challenge will be to change the culture at Air India.

"There is no current institutional memory within Air India of how the airline used to operate under the Tata management of yesteryears. Bridging the cultures of the two organisations will therefore present a major challenge in the short-term and will require patience and extraordinary tact," said Mukund Rajan, former brand custodian of the Tata Group.

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