In an unusually strong statement, India’s state airline Air India, which has been trying to make a comeback after mounting losses, accused a section of the media of spreading negative and baseless news against it to prevent its re-emergence.
During Air India’s times of trouble, the Indian domestic aviation market has been captured by private sector players who have, over time, built up a good rapport with journalists. Air India, being a government company, has not been as successful as private airlines in building relationships with media people.
Air India’s accusation came in the wake of alleged reports that the company, which is being run with the help of taxpayer money, spent crores of rupees on organizing an “Air India Day”.
Air India said the total amount spent was around Rs 10 lakhs and the event was meant to boost employee morale.
“The reporting is totally baseless, mischievous and devoid of truth… The function was intended to felicitate our brave employees who have shown exemplary courage and devotion to the duty while going on rescue operations to bring back hundreds of our countrymen from the conflict zone in Iraq and Libya… While AI is trying to regain its past glory with hard earned successes in the recent time, there is a concerted effort on the part of a section of media to derail and demoralise our promise to success.”
It said the reason for the function was felicitate its courageous pilots who have conducted emergency landing while the aircraft was on fire.
“All this was intended to instill a sense of pride and confidence in our workforce who are slowly coming out of low morale over the period of difficult days in the company.”
It said some parts of the media was “showing undue harshness and resorting to biased, concocted, baseless and demeaning reporting in recent days to malign our reputations particularly when AI is showing definite promise.”
“All participants in the cultural function were talents of employees of the company only. No outside artist was associated with the program. All outstation employees participated in the function were accommodated in the hotel owned by AI subsidiary. AI deplores and condemns biased media reporting particularly when it is farthest from the truth. AI is also exploring to take up the issue to appropriate forum.”
It added that it was fully aware of its responsibilities towards the judicious use of tax payer’s money. “We are always committed to serve the nation to the best of our capabilities. It is to uphold the tradition of Air India to rise to the occasion whenever the nation demands even putting at risk the lives of our brave staffs including pilots, cabin crews, engineers and ground staffs that after so many years Air India decided to organise Air India day on 27th August, 2014.”
Air India has always been criticized by media and customers for what has been seen as a laid-back attitude of its staff. The company, which was a monopoly in India’s international aviation business, has been trying hard to come to terms with a multi-player market. Air India staff were among the most highly paid in the entire government and many of them often drew higher salaries than district collectors.
However, the company has been unable to hold on to its market share in the face competition from low cost airlines and has been posting losses of thousands of crores of rupees. It is currently in the middle of a comeback that may threaten some of the private players.