National carrier Air India (AI) is going in for an image makeover with its 4,000-strong cabin crew switching to a stylish new dress code bearing a subtle western touch during the winter schedule, beginning October 25, to maximise gains from the Star Alliance membership.
A top AI official told MAIL TODAY that the new attire, aimed at giving a more contemporary look and in line with international standards, will be a mix of the traditional Indian sari and Indowestern trousers with small kurti and a scarf.
The colour of the sari will be changed to mustard yellow from the current red-white-black uniform, which has been in use for a long time. "The cabin crew will be attired in mustard yellow saris with a little orange print on it. It will also have a mix of colours as in the Air India logo. We have retained the sari because it is part of our Indian tradition and culture," the official explained.
For domestic flights, cabin crew would have a mix of traditional saris and long kurti and a churidaar. Long-haul international flights will have 50 per cent of cabin crew on board in Indian dress comprising a lower and a kurti with a sash or dupatta.
At least, 50 per cent of them will be attired in Indowestern trousers with small kurti and a scarf. Each dress will be in the same colour pattern from top to bottom," the AI official added. AI officials are keen to revive the Maharaja's declining charm in a highly competitive market and expect the dress makeover to help give some freshness to the ailing carrier, which has now got a brand new fleet of planes but needs to improve its services.
AI had approached the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) to design its new uniforms for cabin crew and ground duty officials. "NIFT had worked out on many designs for us. We have finally drawn up a shortlist and also floated a tender.
We expect the entire process to finish before the winter schedule. Our winter and summer dresses for cabin crew will be the same," an official said. Each cabin crew member would get a set of four uniforms. A senior aviation sector executive said that the cabin crew would also have to bring about a drastic change in their attitude in order to improve flight experience of passengers.
He pointed out that passengers often complain about the indifferent and even rude behaviour hostesses, some of whom tend to have a complacent or laid-back attitude towards work. "Physical fitness has been another problem area. While most cabin crew members want to emulate their European counterparts on being allowed to fly on important routes, their fitness is quite clearly not up to the standard," remarked another aviation sector official.
FINANCIAL PACKAGE FOR LOSS-HIT CARRIERS
While independent auditors of SpiceJet and Jet Airways have red-flagged the 'going concern' status of the two carriers, the civil aviation ministry is looking at a financial package to help airlines tide over the loss-making phase as it does not want more carriers going the Kingfisher Airlines way .
The losses of domestic airlines have piled up to a staggering Rs 49,000 crore as they are reeling under a huge debt burden, and fierce competition due to excess capacity in the sector prevents them from raising fares. According to sources, the ministry is considering a proposal to enable airlines to get loans at seven-to-eight per cent from public sector banks to help them meet their working capital needs.
"Rules could also be eased to allow airlines more low-cost foreign borrowings. Most airlines operate under wafer-thin margins of around five per cent and there are many factors in the market that are not in their control," an aviation ministry official said. The ministry expects to make a plan over the next month and forward it to the finance ministry.
(In association with Mail Today)