To feel the air of India…

Today’s blog post doesn’t really fit into any category of blog posts. However, just because I know you’re going to love what I have in store, I categorized it as a personal finance entry. Why? Because once you’re done reading, you won’t want to waste your money, or risk your life flying this airline.

Most Indians are already well versed with Air India, India’s national carrier. There is a common derogatory phrase that goes: To feel the air of India, fly Air-India. I’ll leave the interpretation up to you. The company, which is owned by the government, has been running in financial losses ever since I can remember, and has received multiple cash infusions or ‘bail-outs’ over the years. Multiple attempts at returning to profitability have been unsuccessful. But today’s post is not really about the company’s finances either.

In the past few days, I have noticed the airline receiving quite a few mentions in the media. Sometimes for sad incidents, sometimes for serious but how-in-the-world-did-they-let-that-happen kind of funny incidents, and other times for downright stupid incidents. I decided to investigate this. A quick google search brought up so many incidents it was hard to choose. Heres a selection of the top 10 chronologically, going backwards. Click on the related date to read more about the incident:

1. December 2015: This one is downright unfortunate. An airline staffer on the tarmac was sucked into the plane’s engine while he was performing his duties because the co-pilot mistook a signal for engine start and activated the engine.

Bus2. December 2015: A shuttle bus carrying the crew for another airline crashed into an Air India plane that was preparing for take-off. To give due credit, this time the airline was not at fault. It seems the driver fell asleep at the wheel while driving on the tarmac that was full of planes that were either parked, landing or taking off!

3. July 2015: A suspected rat sighting on a plane bound for Milan forced it to turn around after 2 hours of flight and return to Delhi. Rats pose a serious threat as they can chew through wires and damage internal controls. Apart from this incident, the news article also mentions 2 other rat related incidents. If that doesn’t engender confidence, I don’t know what does!

4. June 2015: While the airline claims this was a media hoax and its official position is that this was never Lizconfirmed, I found enough specific articles about it to warrant a mention. Apparently, a passenger onboard a flight to London spotted a Lizard on their in-flight meal tray. Hmmm…I wonder if he was a vegetarian.

5. September 2014: A flight to Hong Kong had to make an emergency landing at Kolkata Airport because passengers reportedly complained of smoke inside the cabin. That’s one interpretation of the phrase I mentioned at the beginning.

6. July 2014: This one takes the previous incident one step further. A trans-Atlantic flight from New Jersey was forced to return after one of the engines caught fire. Apparently the pilot “could see flames shooting from it.” All I have to say is thank God they spotted the problem early on, instead of when the flight was half way across the Atlantic.

7. November 2013: A flight from the Middle East was forced to land soon after take-off because one of the doors was not properly closed. Apparently, as soon as the plane was airborne, a warning light went off in the cockpit indicating that one of the aircraft doors was open. How can someone not close the door properly, especially when their life depends on it?

8. October 2009: This one is my second favorite. The cabin crew got into a fist fight mid-flight with the pilots over sexual harassment. The fight started in the cockpit, and spilled into the cabin for all the passengers to see. A pilot and a flight attendant suffered bruises as punches were thrown. Talk about live in-flight entertainment!

9. May 2009: This one was clearly not the airline’s fault, but worth a mention anyway. After the aircraft was fully boarded, the ground crew started the process of retracting the aerobridge. However, instead of retracting, they extended it further causing it to smash into the aircraft door, resulting in serious damage.

10. May 2008: This one is my absolute favorite. It perfectly embodies what I mentioned earlier about how-in-the-world-did-they-let-that-happen kind of funny incidents. A domestic flight started moving before closing the plane’s door. Apparently the captain ordered push-back (the aeronautical term for towing the plane to the main taxiway) from the parking bay while the flight was still coupled to the aerobridge. Fortunately, the plane’s second door was closed. If it wasn’t, “both the doors and the aerobridges would have broken down, rendering the aircraft immobile.”

That’s all folks! I hope reading this article will make you think twice about the airline you choose to fly. Remember, the cheapest option is not always the best one.