Aa Bail Mujhe Maar!

Each time an airline’s employ­ees go on strike and flights are can­celed, the news­pa­pers are full of “hor­ror” sto­ries of peo­ple who have been stranded or who have had to resched­ule, etc. It makes for news…but any sym­pa­thy towards these pas­sen­gers is quite unwarranted.

When you have a choice, why would you fly Air India (AI) or King­fisher (KF)?

Let’s start with KF first and get it out of the way. Per­haps many of us were really caught unawares on the first day that it started can­cel­ing flights. But there­after? The very fact that KF is still around means that there are peo­ple still will­ing to fly with an air­line that could can­cel or resched­ule at any moment. If peo­ple were to stop fly­ing KF, the air­line would auto­mat­i­cally sink…clearly that’s not hap­pen­ing. If masochis­tic pas­sen­gers are sud­denly left in the lurch, they have only them­selves and absolutely no one else to blame.

Seri­ously! Why would any­one want to fly an air­line whose planes may just not take off?

Air India’s story is not as sim­ple, so let’s start with my per­sonal expe­ri­ence with AI.

I don’t have any.

I fly a lot, but I have never flown Air India inter­na­tional ever in my life and have never felt the need to. Ever since I started tak­ing flights, there has never been a guar­an­tee that some­one in the com­pany wouldn’t go on strike or crip­ple ser­vices. And with that sword hang­ing over one’s head and with the choice of another air­line always avail­able, it has never made sense to fly Air India.

I really don’t see why peo­ple fly that air­line. Is it the ser­vice? Can’t be…I have heard both Jekyyl­lian and Hydian sto­ries. The air-hostesses? Naah. The leg space? Per­haps. Prices? Doubt it. Com­pan­ion flies free in busi­ness and first class (and no ques­tions asked about who the com­pan­ion is)? That, yes. Mis­placed patri­o­tism? Perhaps.

I have asked many of my friends who patron­ize the airline…why! And none has actu­ally offered a con­vinc­ing answer except for some who used to find the now defunct Mumbai-Chicago-Mumbai direct flight con­ve­nient, a few who have used the com­pan­ion free offer suc­cess­fully, oth­ers who have no choice because they work in Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment insti­tutes and a few liv­ing in the US who have flown AI out of some weird sepia-tinged nostalgia.

So I ask this ques­tion again. If there is no com­pelling rea­son to fly AI, if there are other bet­ter choices avail­able, and if there is always a chance that the AI flight might not take off, why would any pas­sen­ger want to fly this airline?

It has to be some kind of masochism.

It is amaz­ing how peo­ple find car­casses plea­sur­able. This con­di­tion is also called necrophilia.

AI is in its death throes. The powers-that-be prob­a­bly still see the air­line through a haze of “national pride” (I don’t think any­one of us enter­tains these notions any­more) and have tried heroic mea­sures to revive it, wast­ing large sums of tax­pay­ers’ money in the bar­gain. But, when it’s time, it’s time and we should pull the plug and stop unnec­es­sary, use­less life support.

It is a good thing that the pilots have struck and started a cas­cade that is likely to end with multi-organ fail­ure. The Maharaja should be euth­a­nized, given a 21-gun salute, cre­mated and its ashes immersed in the Ganga.

KF of course can go the Dev­das way and drown itself in an alco­hol haze. We will shed a few tears for the end of the good times and then life can go on.

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