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Vistara brand to be dropped after merger, says Air India CEO Wilson — ‘AI has 90-yr history’

Order for 470 aircraft from Airbus, Boeing will be at list price of $70 billion. New revised in-flight alcohol policy strengthens reporting, provides for stronger action, he adds.

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New Delhi: Air India plans to let go of Vistara brand if its merger gets the required regulatory approval as the airline feels the marquee brand has more global recognition.

The Tata Sons-owned airline also announced that the list price for the order of 470 planes is $70 billion and that it plans to fund the purchase using a combination of sources, including internal cash, shareholder equity and sale-and-leasebacks.

“There is a desire to carry forward the heritage of both Air India and Vistara into the new Air India. The form that Vistara conversion takes we are still working through. Vistara clearly has very strong recognition and respect in the Indian market, but if you look outside the India market, clearly Air India is much more recognized and has a 90 years history… So the future full service will be called Air India but like to retain and celebrate some of the Vistara heritage,” Air India’s CEO Campbell Wilson said Monday at an online press briefing.

The process of integration of Vistara with Air India is underway and is now awaiting approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI), he said, adding that the integration of Air India Express and AIX Connect, earlier known as AirAsia India, is also afoot.

“Air India has embarked on probably the greatest transformation in aviation history…and we have really been working higher over the 12 months… to make this vision of creating a new Air India a reality…There were quite some years of under investment in Air India in terms of people process, systems and a lot of this requires strengthening and improving so that the aspirations that we have can be realised,” he said, during the virtual conference.

Wilson added that the opportunity for Air India as well as  India is really “quite unprecedented” due to factors such as India’s economic growth, significant population, attractive demographics and a geography that is perfectly suited for international aviation connectivity.

Also Read: Air India making global waves with Airbus, Boeing deals, unleashes nation’s aviation promise

Mega order aimed at realising India’s potential

Earlier this month, Air India placed an order for 470 new aircrafts with European manufacturer Airbus and US-based Boeing — the largest order in global aviation history.

The list price for the order is $70 billion and the company plans to fund the purchase using a combination of sources, including internal cash, shareholder equity and sale-and-leasebacks, the Air India CEO said.

“So the principal driver (for the plane order) was really recognising the opportunity for Indian aviation and putting in place the investment in the capacity of the aircraft in order to realise that for India’s benefit,” he said, adding that Air India has “enormous” potential and efforts are on to make the group a significant international player.

Changed in-flight policy

Regarding the airline’s revised in-flight alcohol service policy introduced in January, Wilson said it strengthens the practice of reporting any incidents related to intoxication as well as provides for stronger action.

This was necessitated in the backdrop of two incidents on board Air India, with the first occurring 26 November on a New York-Delhi flight when an inebriated co-traveller allegedly urinated on a 70-year old woman. Air India came under heavy criticism for failing to handle the incident and also for not reporting it. The other incident took place December 6 on an Air India flight from Paris to India.

“What has changed… is the practice of reporting and acting on when intoxication is detected. Almost every day there is an incident…usually it’s the case of someone drinking their own liquor before they get on board or getting their own duty-free liquor onto the aircraft and consuming it. And so this is being reported more often and we are taking stronger action when it happens,” Wilson said.

He added that when such cases happen, the crew members face the brunt of ire.

“There are many instances where crew was threatened when they ask people to stop (drinking) their own alcohol or where they are refused service. And in some cases, this actually progresses to a point where the crew is physically threatened and in some, actually assaulted. So I think this really highlights a broader (issue) …of indiscipline or discipline on board aircraft. It’s something that has been noted internationally and has been on the rise since COVID,” he said in response to a query.

“We did a review of the policy and we did it against the practice of other airlines, including other India-based airlines as well as against international policy such as the American restaurant association. And what we’ve determined was that our policy actually was very, very in line with what they offered. We strengthened it a little…about how to recognise the signs of intoxication and a little bit more education on what to do in such circumstances. But the policy itself was generally in line,” he added.

(Edited By Tony Rai)

Also Read: Why Air India’s jumbo order for 470 jets could mark a turning point for Indian aviation

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