PARIS 2009: Indian airlines face up to bleak times

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Two years ago when I was at the last Paris Air show, top executives from the Indian carriers were out in full force signing orders and meeting manufacturers as they rode the wave of optimism about the country’s airline industry. There was a wave of excitement as reporters followed the likes Kingfisher CEO Vijay Mallya and Jet Airways CEO Naresh Goyal around the show.

How things have changed in just less than 24 months. None of the Indian airlines made it to the show this year, and their absence is a sign of the times.

They were already not making money during the good times, but the prospects have visibly darkened over the last few months as the global economic crisis bit. Massive losses are the order of the day as they try to form alliances and explore almost every way possible to cut costs.

Perhaps, nothing exemplifies their plight better than the fact that state-owned Air India has to delay paying its staff their wages for two weeks. It is also waiting on a government bail-out to help pay for its operations.

Demand continues to grow in India but the airlines cannot try to increase their market share without thinking about the future. Only through sensible business plans, backed by prudent investment, can India’s airline industry return to profitability. Hopefully, that will happen before the next Paris Air Show in 2011.

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