Air India may reduce dependence on its former ground-handling subsidiary, AIASL, as it responds to flight delays and customer complaints. It is exploring other options at airports served by AIASL.
Air India has been experiencing poor ground handling services since disinvestment in terms of check-in, baggage handling and other necessary services for the passengers.
AIASL serves Air India at all airports except Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mangalore, and Thiruvananthapuram. At these five airports, ground handling is done by Air India’s joint venture firm AISATS.
Rajesh Dogra, the airline’s head of customer experience and ground handling, listed eight issues of concern in a June 29 letter to AI Asset Holding Limited. Dogra said the number of flight delays has increased from 3.7% to 11.9% of the total.
The number of flight delays due to ground handling in December 2021 and January 2022 was 284 and 89, respectively. The months of February, March, April, and May have seen a steady climb in ground-handling induced delays to 271, 386, 520, and 620, respectively.
The key issues identified in the letter sent to AIASL are – Increased ground handling delays at AIASL, the perennial shortage of staffing, lack of systemic training interventions for staff, Old, inadequate, and dysfunctional ground handling equipment due to ineffective maintenance, staff not in uniform or wearing jaded uniform.
These include staff shortage, discourteous behaviour with customers, mishandling of baggage and lack of effective governance by AIASL. AI Asset Holding controls AIASL.
“We are getting a large number of escalations across all channels highlighting delays, as well as lack of professional handling of customers at AIASL, handled airports,” said Dogra adding that these were affecting the airline’s brand image and goodwill.
“The service lapses including manpower shortages extend to the terminal as well as ramp operations impacting the check-in / boarding, baggage handling processes almost on a daily basis. We are getting large number of escalations across all channels highlighting delays as well as lack of professional handling of customers at AlASL handled airports.
We are unable to accept this situation any longer as inefficiencies in the AlASL operationsis severely impacting our services, goodwill, and brand image. In view of the above, we are constrained to explore alternative arrangements for ground handling services at such AIASL airports…. we will be forced to discontinue/scale down AlASL ground handling services at such airports.
Inspite of our sustained efforts towards constructive engagement and repeated highlighting of shortcomings/deficiencies in service delivery, (the same) deteriorate progressively…. for any airline to be able to deliver enhanced customer experience, ground handling operations such as check-in, boarding, baggage handling and ramp side activities are extremely critical.”The letter written by Air India to AIASL
A senior AIASL official said the main issue was a staff shortage. “Staff is being hired across stations on a war footing to improve our service,” he said.
The Tatas are desperately trying to improve Air India’s service standards, putting flights on time, making customer service more efficient and booking processes more seamless.