Will Maharaja soar again?

After showing 101 striking pilots the door, Air India may allegedly decide to fire the remaining 300-odd pilots who fly on the international sector and have been reporting ‘sick’ for the past month. That report — the latest in a long list of many such stories casting our national carrier in a shockingly poor light — ought to be looked at as the last straw. Because if partly shutting down international operations, sacking pilots and hiring new ones isn’t the last straw, we shudder to think of what is.

The strike has, at this point, been on for over a month. The government says it’s over, of course, but we believe it’s over only when the carrier can resume normal operations. At the start of this month, losses had already touched Rs 330 crore — hardly the kind of figure any airline can write off, let alone one that has been struggling for a number of years.

One assumes reports like this one cause more sadness than embarrassment to those who aren’t a part of the airline that, until 2001, was a market leader on domestic routes. This is before Indian Airlines merged into Air India, becoming the unruly, mismanaged behemoth it is today. Compare its present state of desperation with the pride it once instilled in those who spotted the Maharajah at airports abroad.

Some believe this proves the government should not run a business. Others say it was inevitable, considering its long and troubled history of problems with leadership, integration of its workforce and the fact that total debt, as of financial year 2011, was a reported Rs 44,000 crore.
As we are not aviation experts, we can’t comment on these theories or figures. We would simply like to see the Maharajah dominate the skies again, the way it once did.

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