The government of Singapore thought of starting an international airline to be able to attract investment to the island in the early 1970s. It would play a role as an advertisement by enabling decision-makers to have a unique experience that they have never had before. New Singapore Airlines had to collaborate with an existing airline from which it would acquire the necessary know-how and service standards. After all the heating debates, believe or not, Air India was the favorite choice among world’s best airlines.
Air India Had a Curious Beginning
Airmail letters from Europe to India were unloaded from international airlines in a city called Karachi in the early 1930s.Later on, there was an issue that it took several days to send the mail to its intended destination by a train. A former Royal Air Force pilot named Nevill Vintcent had the idea of setting up an air service that could deliver the mail from Karachi to its destination in the same day. Vintcent shared his ideas with JRD Tata who has been known as aviation freak and eventually they started Tata Air Mail in 1932. Initially, they had two little Puss Moth aircraft that could fly at 100 mph, carrying two passengers in addition to the mail and the only equipment was a pair of goggles and an old-fashioned slide rule to help the pilot navigate.
Tata Air Mail did the Karachi-Bombay-Madras run every Monday and made a profit of Rs60,000, carrying a total of 10 tons of mail, as well as 155 passengers. In the following years, it extended its service to new cities such as Delhi, Hyderabad and Colombo and eventually it changed its name to Tata Airlines in 1938.
The Next Stage of The Evolution
In 1946, JRD Tata saw huge possibilities for the airline industry in the post-WWII world environment. Therefore he took the company public and changed its name to Air India. He acquired a sizeable fleet of aircraft known as Lockheed Constellation which was one of the most advanced aircraft of its time with a range capable of international flights.
The plane was named ”Malabar Princess” and it took off from the Santa Cruz airport, Bombay on its first international flight to London on June 8, 1948. Over the next 30 years, Air India became known as one of the world’s finest airlines. It had the kind of service that the other airlines talked about with admiration, even though it may have been small compared with its giant global competitors.
JRD Tata’s Efforts
JRD Tata’s endless efforts in every part of the work was one of the main reasons behind Air India’s superlative service. He was wandering about on flights, making notes of tiny details that needed to be fixed, from the level to which the wine was poured into a wine glass to the hairstyles of the air hostesses. His discipline inspired the Air India staff into performing way beyond the ordinary call of duty.
Later on, Air India had been nationalized and JRD Tata refused to be chairman of the Tata group, but he spent most of his time on the airline he had created and nurtured.And due to that reason, JRD Tata was humiliatingly sacked by prime minister Morarji Desai in 1978. The main problem was that the puritanical Morarji had issued a diktat that no alcohol was to be served on board Air India and JRD had objected strongly by saying that was no way to run an international airline.Thus, the descent of Air India had begun.
Finally, the government forced the airline’s disinvestment. However, there is hope that the Tatas will soon be able to get things back to its former position. If nothing else, it could be a great flying advertisement for the country as prime minister of Singapore realized long ago.