Air India is marking 70 years since its first flight took off from Mumbai to London in June 1948, which laid the foundations of the India-UK relationship. The national carrier is inviting members of the Indian diaspora in Britain to share their memories of the airline in its early days. The iconic first flight, on a Super Constellation aircraft, took off from Mumbai on 8th June and landed in London via Cairo and Geneva on 10th June 1948, with just 42 passengers on board, including some Indian Nawabs (noblemen) and Maharajas (kings).
It was a proud day for Air Indian’s last week, as India’s national carrier commemorated its platinum jubilee. In the midst of Heathrow, under the helm of the new Regional Manager for UK and Europe Mr Debashis Golder along with Director Operations and Board Member Captain Arvind Kathpalia and MP for Slough Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Air India celebrated its growth from the humble Puss Moth to the new Dreamliner.
“We want to reach out to people who would have made some of these early journeys to share their memories and pictures, which we could feature in our inflight magazine and also catalogue to mark those glorious early days of air travel,” told Debashis Golder, Air India Regional Manager – UK and Europe, according to PTI.
“Many of these journeys will mark the arrival of Indians who went on to make their life and fortunes in the UK or friends and family who made visits back and forth during a time when the availability and flight times were not what they are today. It marks an important chapter in the India-UK relationship,” he said.
Golder took charge of the UK and Europe operations of Air India recently, at a time when the airline is undergoing the process of disinvestment. “It does mark a period of big change for Indian aviation, with a lot of hope that Air India will regain its days of grace and glory,” he said.
The UK market is among the airline’s busiest sectors, having recently added three direct flights between Birmingham and Amritsar. “This was a long-standing demand and the route is doing well, especially as it falls within the religious tourism segment — culminating at Golden Temple in Amritsar. In addition, the third or fourth generation Indians, now settled in the UK for years, visit their home state frequently to stay connected to their roots and the direct connection has certainly proved popular,” said Golder.
Air India’s latest addition was Tel Aviv and for the next phase of expansion, it is looking at the African continent — with flights to East and South Africa, which the airline used to serve until the early 2000s.