Thursday, May 26, 2011

Air India

When Bob Haygooni paid a midflight visit to a cockpit at his new employer, Air India, he was shocked. The pilots, he said, had completely covered the windows with newspaper to keep out the sun.

“All you had in the cockpit was this yellowish glow, as the light permeated the newspaper,” Mr. Haygooni recalled, saying it was a visibility hazard he had never seen before in 30 years of flying.

But “this was a normal thing at Air India,” said Mr. Haygooni, a former United Airlines pilot who flew for the Indian airline for 16 months. In April 2010, however, he decided that the paycheck was not worth his concerns over what he considered the government’s haphazard approach to running its state-owned airline.

Interviews with more than a dozen experienced pilots hired in the last three years by Air India to work new international routes describe an airline with problems. But theirs are not the only complaints.

Passengers have abandoned Air India in droves, shunning the airline because of its reputation for poor customer service and late flights.

Formerly this nation’s monopoly carrier, Air India has been surpassed by three commercial Indian airlines — Jet Airways, Kingfisher and IndiGo — among those that have sprung up since India deregulated the domestic industry nearly two decades ago. Air India now has less than 15 percent of India’s domestic air travel market, with many empty seats on the flights that do take off.
In other words, companies driven by greed self-interest serve their customers better than those which do not have a profit motive -- something worth considering next time one hears voices clamoring for government-run health care. Profits, so often demonized by the left, are best understood as simply a reward for performing a good job. We need more such incentives, not less.

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