Air India’s stylised red-swan-inside-a-wheel logo will soon adorn its iconic former headquarters in Mumbai, according to the airline’s executives, signalling the completion of a long-drawn, seven-year integration with Indian Airlines and an impending entry into the prestigious Star Alliance, a global grouping of airlines.
In 2007, Air India removed its then logo, the centaur, from the top of the Air India building on Mumbai’s Marine Drive. That was the year Air India and Indian Airlines merged. “The board has decided to have the new logo in place at the Air India building in Mumbai,” said Rohit Nandan, chairman of Air India. “It should be up by June.” The airline would like to see the return of the logo as a sign of its own turnaround after a botched integration process that saw four chairmen come and go, several strikes by employees and thousands of crores in losses. The merger was even criticized by the government’s auditor. The losses ensured that the airline had to lease out its assets or even sell them off. The Air India building in Mumbai itself was part of this process.
Designed by famous architect John Burgee in 1974, Air India Building was till last year the official headquarters, which was shifted to Airlines House in New Delhi as the airline sought to lease out space to earn more revenue. The airline currently occupies the top three floors of the building while the rest are with Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, State Bank of India and the Directorate General of Shipping.
The uncertainty over whether or not it would retain any space at all in the building was why the logo wasn’t put up, said an executive at Air India who asked not to be identified. Still, it isn’t as if the airline is out of the woods.
It is expected to have made a loss of at least Rs.4,000 crore in 2013-14, compared with a loss of Rs.5,100 crore in 2012-13. The airline has accumulated losses of nearly Rs.20,000 crore.
Air India is hoping its turnaround will be accelerated by its entry into Star Alliance by June.
Entering the largest airline grouping will mean that Air India’s passengers will be able to use Star Alliance’s facilities such as airport lounges, fly on a network of 21,900 daily flights to 1,328 airports in 195 countries, and redeem air miles on airlines such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Singapore Airlines Ltd and United Airlines Inc.
The entry into Star Alliance will also start a year of heavy advertising by Air India to reposition itself, besides a similar exercise that will be carried out by Star Alliance. “When a new airline joins, we run one campaign outside the home market of the new member airline, which is supported by all our member carriers,” Star Alliance spokesman Markus Ruediger said in an email from Frankfurt.
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