Air India advised to axe in-flight meals

Another zillionth committee was set up by the Government of India to see how costs could be controlled in its pet loss-making project Air India. And predictably, they have come back with the same recommendations which are the low-hanging fruits for any airline to save costs, Unbundle. Something that competitor Jet Airways has made noises for a long time about but hasn’t gone ahead with so far.

According to the press, Air India will likely have to follow the Low Cost Carrier model, without having to shed its full-service tag to survive. Obviously, the first suggestion, right there on the top, is to axe in-flight meals.

It has been recommended that only tea, coffee, cold drinks, peanuts and biscuits be served free of cost to economy passengers flying on domestic routes. Those who want anything more than this like a meal or sandwich should pay. We will still be full service if this is recommended as LCCs only give drinking water in small plastic or paper glass free of cost and charge for everything else like beverages and eatables on both international and domestic flights.

This is clearly a leaf from the book of American legacy carriers, and is surely a welcome suggestion given the quality of meals I just had a couple of days ago was bad, I’d rather buy a quality sandwich if hungry rather than eat this food. You got to remember that Air India already has moved to a model where meal service is provided on flights over 90 minutes of flying time.

For flights up to 60 minutes duration, the service is of pre-packed dry snacks, water and juice in tetra pack. Coffee or Tea service is served on request, and for flights up to 90 minutes duration, the service is of boxes containing of sandwiches, brownie and water in addition to coffee or tea.

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However, I am hoping that Air India also considers the other side of the equation, where all low-fare carriers in India, i.e., SpiceJet, Indigo, GoAir and JetKonnect usually sell their tickets on various routes at about Rs. 300 discount from the full-service carriers Jet Airways and Air India.

The common notion anyways is that in the absence of low-cost terminals in India and the high price of fuel, all airlines operating are on equal footing apart from the cost of the meals. Sure there is a cost of running a mileage program as well, but considering Air India awards you minimal miles possible, and does not have too many partners, I’m sure that cost is not as high as Jet Airways which I assume carries a bigger liability on its books for airmiles.

Further, two suggestions that do also make sense are to finally move their crew to airport hotels for layovers rather than housing them in downtown hotels, which are a criminal waste of money anyways. Also, Air India needs to shut down offices in cities where it does not even fly to, such as Rome and Washington. As a state-owned entity, these are the places the bureaucracy of Air India would love to head to, because work is minimal at best, and obviously the lure of earning in dollars rather than rupees.

The one bit that did make me chuckle was the calling a spade a spade bit. This panel has criticised the Air India website for looking as crappy as it does, and making ticket reservation such an uphill task that people usually abort in the midst and go to an OTA website to book their tickets.

Way to go Air India, now instead of sitting on one more report on turning you around, either shape up, or sell out! And yes, get rid of that bloated work force of yours, because that should be your starting point to cut costs on a long-term basis.

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About Ajay Awtaney

Ajay is a financial services pro, working to bring order to the chaos of the financial industry on an everyday basis! Beyond that, he dons the hat of India's favourite frequent traveller, trying to help people elevate their travel experience via tips and tricks they never knew before, or introduce them to the world of miles and points. Armed with an MBA from MDI Gurgaon and graduate degree in computer science from the University of Delhi, Ajay brings a systematic and objective approach on the table for his audience in dissecting travel and loyalty programs in India and around the world, and how to benefit from them. Ajay has been quoted in various reputed traditional and online media including The Hindustan Times, Inside Flyer, Bloomberg, DNA India, Conde Nast Traveller, The Telegraph, Mumbai Mirror, Mint, MoneyLife and The USA Today.

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