Famous Brands – Air India

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Life has come a full circle for Air India as it goes back to its original owners, the Tatas with the hope that they will turn it around

Nevill Vintcent was a big, blond Britisher born in 1902 in South Africa. He was a good boxer, too. He was commissioned into the Royal Air Force at 20 and, after a short stint in World War I, was recognised for his bravery.

While flying in a fighter biplane over the Arabian Desert, his navigator and he were forced to make an emergency landing. A group of hostile Arab horsemen charged the aircraft and tried to take them hostage. Aeroplanes back then only had a single fixed machine gun, so Vintcent jumped down and flipped the plane around by hand so the navigator could fire at the Arab tribesmen using the rear gun until help arrived.

Nevill Vintcent

After flying with the RAF, he did air-survey assignments in India and some parts of Southeast Asia. Flying airmail between Borneo and the Straits colonies after WWI, he saw firsthand India’s potential as a commercial aviation hub. He first pitched the idea of a new airline to Russa Mehta, the son of textile tycoon Sir Homi Mehta, in Mumbai. However, he heard nothing. J.R.D. Tata was next on his list; he had just earned his pilot’s licence.

In 1929, JRD and Nevill first met. Young JRD found inspiration in Vintcent’s proposal for a commercial aeroplane service in India. JRD seems to have rapidly come to believe that India needed an airline for its future and the commercial possibilities of such an organisation as they debated the plan. But what stood out to him about Vintcent was the depth of his enthusiasm, expertise, and talent.

JRD asked Vintcent to provide a business plan, which was subsequently presented to Sir Dorabji Tata, the Tata Group’s chairman at the time. Sir Dorab finally accepted after some hesitance, with a small investment of Rs 2 lakh. The Tatas wrote to the British government in India to request permission to launch an airline.

That started a three-year saga of very drawn-out letters between the two parties. The Tatas’ first subsidy request was denied. There was then a lengthy period of indecision on the part of the government, which was presumably reluctant to provide permission to an Indian company to launch an airline. Both JRD Tata and his chairman, Sir Dorabji Tata, were becoming agitated and even annoyed by the obstacles in their way.

However, Vintcent was a persistent young man who was unafraid of red tape, especially because he thought the business idea would benefit India. So he travelled to Shimla to meet the viceroy, Lord Willingdon.

Lord Willingdon was persuaded.

The government’s approval of Tata Airlines’ plan did not come for several more months. On April 24, 1932, the Tata Group and the Government of India inked a contract to transport airmail for 10 years. With the purchase of two de Havilland Puss Moths, Tata Sons established its aviation division.

Nevill Vintcent quickly became JRD Tata’s go-to consultant on all matters about the new airline, from the selection of aircraft to the estimation of initial and ongoing costs.

The Beginning

On October 15, 1932, JRD Tata took off for the first flight in Tata Aviation Service’s Haviland Puss Moth from the Karachi Drigh Road Aerodrome bound for Mumbai Juhu. He arrived in Mumbai at 1:50 p.m. after stopping for fuel in Ahmedabad and handing 55 pounds of mail to the city’s postmaster. India’s first commercial flight was a momentous occasion.

Within twenty minutes after meeting JRD at the Mumbai airport, Vintcent took over and was off with mail bound for Madras, stopping briefly in the town of Bellary (which also got 6 pounds of mail). The Tata airmail route from Karachi to Madras via Mumbai and Bellary eventually became a weekly occurrence.

There was a Puss Moth and a de Havilland Leopard Moth in the airline’s fleet. In the beginning, mail was flown once a week between Karachi and Madras via Ahmedabad and Bombay. The airline flew 160,000 miles (260,000 km), transported 155 people, and delivered around 10 tonnes of mail in its first year of operation, all while turning a profit of $60,000

JRD’s dedication to quality and Vintcent’s solid operational capabilities allowed the airline to achieve 100% on-time performance in its first year of service. In its report for 1933–1934, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation praised Tata Services, for its efficiency and a great example of how an airmail service should be run.

The airline had huge growth and a significant increase in profitability. The airline quickly expanded to include mail and passengers.

The airline’s first domestic flight was a six-seater Miles Merlin from Bombay to Trivandrum. It was renamed Tata Air Services in 1938, and then Tata Airlines. In 1938, Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Delhi, India, were added as travel options.

It was so well run that in 1939, the cost of a flight from Bombay to Delhi was comparable to that of first-class train travel inside India.

However, beginning in late 1939, due to World War II, civil aviation in India was grounded. The government took control of the Tata planes, and they performed well for the Royal Air Force (RAF), helping to carry both injured soldiers and refugees.

During this time, Vintcent often accompanied JRD on his travels, and the two of them plotted the future of the airline they had co-founded. Vintcent, ever the businessman, viewed the outbreak of war as a golden chance to establish an aircraft manufacturing plant in India. For the second time, JRD found this concept appealing since it would provide the country with the domestic aircraft it would need after the war.

The British government initially agreed to embrace this initiative, but then abruptly reversed course. While in London in 1942, Vintcent discussed the production of troop carrying gliders by Indian manufacturers with the British government. He was so enamoured with the prospect of immediately implementing this plan that he hoped to return to India as soon as possible to finalise the particulars.

To go back as quickly as possible, you should ask the Royal Air Force to take him. On January 29, 1942, he joined the crew of an RAF Hudson bomber. But the plane vanished without a trace, unfortunately. After then, no more information on Nevill Vintcent surfaced.

It was quickly established that the Hudson bomber had been shot down in international waters near the French coast. The tragic truth that Vintcent’s corpse was never found became apparent to everyone very quickly. At the tender age of forty, the man who, together with JRD, had founded India’s first airline vanished without a trace.

After Independence (1947)

With the Boeing 707-420 Gauri Shankar, Air India introduced the first jet aircraft to an Asian airline.

Regular commercial service was resumed in India after World War II, and on July 29, 1946, Tata Airlines formally changed its name to Air India and became a public limited corporation.

In 1948, after Indian independence in 1947, the Indian government purchased 49% of the airline. The airline’s first international flight, a Lockheed Constellation L-749A called Malabar Princess (registered VT-CQP), left Bombay for London Heathrow on June 8, 1948. Air India’s first nonstop transatlantic flight, from New Delhi to New York City, was in 1993.


After the passage of the Air Corporations Act in 1953, the Indian government acquired a controlling interest in Tata Sons, the airline’s parent company, from J. R. D. Tata. It was decided that Tata would remain chairman until 1977. As part of the company’s reorganisation, its name was changed to Air India International Limited, and its domestic operations were handed over to Indian Airlines.


Air India International was the first Asian airline to take delivery of its first Boeing 707-420 on February 21, 1960. On May 14, 1960, the airline began flying to New York.

The airline formally shortened its name to “Air India” on June 8th, 1962, and on June 11th, 1962, it became the first all-jet airline in the world.

After the Liberalisation (2000)

Efforts were undertaken to re-privatize Air India in 2000–01.

The low-cost subsidiary Air India Express was formed in May 2004 to link Indian cities with those in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Up until that year, Indian Airlines flew mostly local and international short-haul routes, while Air India focused on international long-haul routes.

Combining Indian Airlines

Air India and Indian Airlines combined in 2007 to become Air India Limited, and that same year, the airline received its first Boeing 777. The airline joined the Star Alliance after receiving an invitation in 2007.


The airline was transferred to Tata Group on January 27, 2022, after multiple attempts by multiple governments to privatise it


Soon, Vistara would combine with Air India, and Air Asia would absorb Air India Connect.


The airline conducted a press conference on August 10, 2023, to unveil its new “The Vista” livery logo and cabin. New logos, liveries, seat upholstery, and more have been unveiled in the airline’s signature colour scheme of deep red, aubergine, and gold.






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