Life without a national carrier; how will India manage humanitarian missions?
Air India’s role as the carrier called upon to bring home our diverse diaspora across the globe in times of crisis is well known. While Air Transportthe movie, told everyone how Air India led the way in bringing back hundreds of thousands of Indians from Kuwait when Iraq invaded the country, there were more examples.
In 2020, India had also put Air India into service to bring home Indians stranded in Wuhan China as the city witnessed the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Air India single-handedly led the mission to bring Indians home under the direction of the Indian government until other carriers joined the Vande Bharat mission. The evacuation of Afghanistan as the country fell to the Taliban was another.
Will the image of the rescue operator change with the privatization of Air India?
Will Air India’s position as the preeminent rescue operator in India change now that Air India has been privatized? At least it doesn’t look like it will be immediately. When it came to operating flights to Kyiv, Ukraine to rescue Indians who needed to be brought back to the country, Air India was the first airline to be called upon.
Air India was able to operate a successful flight earlier in the week but had to turn around and fly home as they mounted the second mission. A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) had been issued closing Ukrainian airspace to civilian aircraft, which meant that Air India or any other airline for that matter could not fly over to pick up their citizens.
Why Air India is called first for rescue missions
There is more than one reason why Air India is called first. Air India remains the only carrier in India with enough jumbo jets needed to get people home. In a mission that involves rescue operations and is headed into dangerous or conflict terrain, any operator must be able to bring back as many people as possible in one go.
This is because there are only a limited number of opportunities to carry out an evacuation mission in a conflict zone. Vistara has only two jumbo jets and Air India has 49. Air India obviously has more resources to carry out an evacuation without affecting normal flight operations.
The second reason, and the most important, is more intangible. Air India has all the experience in carrying out these missions for many years. On board AI1947, which evacuated 242 people from Ukraine on Tuesday, Air India had sent five pilots, along with 18 cabin crew and three engineers, to deal with any contingency just in case. would occur on the ground in Kyiv. The mission was well planned and Air India flew in and out of Kyiv Boryspil International Airport in less than 90 minutes.
Among the pilots on board were Air India pilots who had previously flown missions for Air India in Benghazi, Libya, also in 2009.
Not for a minute do I criticize the ability of any other Indian carrier to carry out such a humanitarian mission. The Government of India may recruit or direct (under the Aircraft Act 1934, Section 6) any airline in India to carry out a mission and support it with such diplomatic assistance as is necessary to carry out a mission. such mission. They did, indeed, during the COVID-19 pandemic (not within their statutory powers, to be clear).
After some time Air India ran operations to fly people to and from India, the Indian government also opened it up to other Indian airlines. But by then there were established systems and processes, perhaps put in place by the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Civil Aviation of the Government of India with inputs and experience from Air India.
While force majeure is unpredictable and aviation is a primary tool of diplomacy, as things stand, so I think Air India will continue to be the main port of call for the Indian government in the event of a disaster and that a evacuation mission is necessary. Unless the government decides to send Indian Air Force assets, which might not be a preferred option since most evacuations are conducted as a peace operation. The only difference here might be that the Indian government might actually have to pay commercial rates for these missions in the future.
(The author writes about Indian Aviation on livefromalounge.com and tweets from @LiveFromALounge)
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Posted: Saturday February 26th 2022, 08:21 IST