Air India is returning home. The loss-making airline will be formally taken over by conglomerate Tata Group on January 27, 2022.
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons, was photographed by reporters entering Airlines House, being greeted by Air India chairman and managing director CMD Vikram Dev Dutt for the official handover.
Chandrasekaran had also met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the official handover.
The formal takeover marks a new chapter for Air India. Tata Sons has previously said it will take a “considerable effort” to rebuild the flag carrier.
The Tata group is no stranger to airlines, currently owning a 51% stake in Vistara, a joint venture with Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY), and an 83.67% share in AirAsia India. It was also Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata who founded Tata Airlines in 1932. The carrier was renamed Air India in 1946 and then nationalized in 1948, after India gained independence.
The Indian government had been trying to sell Air India for years, with an initial process in 2017 failing to attract interest and the COVID-19 pandemic putting paid to a further attempt in 2020. Finally in October 2021, a $2.4 billion bid from Tata Sons was announced as the winning bid, beating a rival offer from Ajay Singh, the founder of Indian airline SpiceJet.
2022 is shaping up to be an interesting year for Indian aviation. Along with new owners at Air India, it will also see the launch of ultra-low-cost carrier Akaza Airlines, which plans to operate the Boeing 737 MAX. In addition, two new UK airlines, Hans Airways and Flypop, also intend to launch operations connecting secondary cities in Britain and India.