I’m not suggesting Emirates should become the national carrier of India. I’m asserting that it is already the de-facto national airline of the sub-continent. And Indians need to tell their politicians to get over the rescue-Air-India-at-any-cost fever, save some tax rupees and let the market decide which airline survives and which doesn’t.
Game over, Air India
As I mentioned in a previous article, Air India contributes 10% of global airline losses with just 0.35% of global traffic (stat. from Bangalore Aviation).To rescue the airline, hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ rupees are required over a long period of time. And even then, a profitable airline cannot be guaranteed, especially one that is mostly run for, and by the government and bureaucrats.
Even if you can gloss over the fact that lots of money is required to rescue Air India, the ideas for the turnaround that have been proposed till now have been far from convincing. Repositioning Air India as a low-cost carrier, with sky-high employee-to-plane ratio, aging fleet, poor plane utilization and lethargic execution, is at best an ill-conceived dream.
Till date, Air India has filled its planes either with politicians, or by selling dirt-cheap tickets that hardly cover the costs of flying. And these are both unsustainable practices. And with the uphill battle to rescue the airline, I suggest Indians let go and move on.
Why Emirates is the de-facto national carrier?
Emirates not only operates many times the frequency to all of Air India’s international destinations, it offers way better service and is already the leading international airline out of India from a number of major cities, ahead of Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and KLM.
For the true aviation geeks among us, let me share some statistics* about Emirates’ operations since they started the daily Dubai-Los Angeles (LAX) and Dubai-San Francisco (SFO) services on May 1, 2009.
- EK is the leader in market share to MAA/BLR/HYD/COK to/from LAX.
- Outsold CX, AI, LH, BA and SQ to BOM from LAX. Has # 2 market share on this route behind Korean Air.
- Ranked #6 in market share on LAX–DEL route behind OZ/LH/CX/SQ/CI.
- On SFO–BLR sector, ranked #3 in terms of market share; outsold LH and BA on this route even though LH has a daily same plane SFO–FRA–BLR flight operated with a B 744.
- On SFO–BOM sector, ranked #3 behind CX and KE in terms of market share; outsold SQ/BA/LH/AI.
- Market share leader on SFO–HYD sector, outsold LH 3:1 and SQ 2:1.
- On SFO–MAA sector, ranked #3 in terms of market share behind SQ and CX; outsold LH/BA each by 2:1 margin.
Imagine what will happen once Emirates starts flying its high-capacity A380s to Indian routes, connecting seamlessly to all over Europe and North America in the next few years. No other airline, even if they’re part of alliances, would come close to beating Emirates in terms of capacity to India. Hence, I rest my case that Emirates is serving the purpose of a national carrier to India.
What about the residues from Air India?
The Hindus in India submerge the ashes of someone who’s passed away in the Ganges river. Metaphorically speaking, the same should be done with Air India.
The Indian government should take a leaf out of the Aussies. When Ansett perished, the good parts were taken up by Qantas and the rest forgotten. Similarly, once Air India stops operations, the planes can be sold to other Indian carriers like Jet Airways and Kingfisher. Most of the additional capacity would certainly be absorbed by the slew of quality LCCs in India, like SpiceJet and Indigo.
As for the large number of employees, if they can’t find jobs with local or foreign private airlines, I’m sure the Indian Railways can come to the rescue, which is already the largest employer in the world. And the railways still carry more people per day in India, than the airlines do in a year.
Indians should realize that by forcing Air India to stay alive, they’re not helping anyone. Good money is chasing bad money. The politicians are still making merry and the service standards still remain hopeless compared to competition.
What are your thoughts about how Air India should be dealt with? Is letting the airline fizzle a practical solution, or do you have better ideas? Let’s discuss in the comments or over on Twitter (@simpliflying)
*Statistics: Special thanks to Ojas for sharing this data on Airlines.net