Thursday, February 22, 2007


I am sure my readers may be wondering what I am talking about in my curious headline. Let me begin by saying that the Indian media, whether print or TV, has most of the time got it wrong when it comes to reporting about Aviation. I have been ranting about this aspect in a few of my previous articles now confined to the archives on my blog. I have often wondered whether the mis-reporting is because of the lack of knowledge of the subject or the media's obsession with the industry termed as a "glamorous" one. Of course anyone in Aviation will tell you that we are in it because of our love for all things flying and has nothing to do with glamour. Most of us know that the glamour tag is only that - a tag! Let me not digress from the topic and come straight to the issue.

I saw a news report on CNN-IBN online recently and apparently it was on TV as well about the impending merger of Air India and Indian Airlines. Great, long time coming and better now than never. That's not the reason for my grouse against the reporting. The news continues to say that the said merger will create Asia's largest Airline! Wow! Another news report says that compared to Asian tigers such as Singapore Airlines, Malaysian and Thai, the merged Airline will be larger with around 110 Aircraft (never mind some of them are very old Aircraft in terrible condition and need to be replaced asap) and with purchases of new jets, the fleet size is going to be around 130. Fantastic I thought, until a quick research on the net showed Singapore Airlines with a bit more than 90 Aircraft currently and 110 on order. You do the math. But that's not the end of the story, there's more to it. And that pertains to China and Japan.

One of the things that a reporter can do these days before cooking up stories is browse the web, collect better information and then say what they need to say in print, online and on TV. Not so in the CNN-IBN case. The reporter makes a sweeping statement that AI-IA will be Asia's biggest Airline when merged into a single entity.

Forget Singapore Airlines and the other 'Tiger' economies of the region for the moment and think China. What did I say? China? Oh right. There is a country called china and maybe they have some Airlines too flying there, right? If the naive Indian media thought that the Airline sector in India was booming, they need to pay attention to the giant next door where Airlines are not only booming but booming a lot louder than any one in India. Like I said, all that a news reporter has to do these days it to simply browse the web and do a bit of research. I will only give two examples here about the size of the fleet of Airlines in China:

1. China Southern Airlines has a fleet of 235 Aircraft and 99 more on order.
2. China Eastern Airlines has a fleet of 186 Aircraft currently.

Here's one example as far as Japan is concerned. Japan Airlines (JAL) has a current Aircraft fleet strength of 232 Aircraft with 75 more on order. That's mammoth.

One must ask these reporters and the channels whether China and Japan are considered as a part of Asia or not. If they are to be considered as a part of Asia, then quite clearly the AI-IA merged entity CANNOT be the largest Airline in Asia. I did put in a comment on the online website of CNN-IBN. Who cares to read or respond?

Is it not time for the Indian media to stop hyping everything about India and especially about aviation in India and creating a myth that does not exist? Is it not time that the Indian media realize that everyone who reads their reporting are not fools and do a bit of research before saying something without basis? One need not be a rocket scientist to do the math or need to be an aviator to read between the lines.


Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Just an update: Business Standard online (a biznews paper in India) reported the same merger (AI-IA) without saying that it would create the largest Airline in Asia. Thats factual reporting and thats how it should be. Last year, my ire was against NDTV's mis-reporting and this time it is the new kids on the block CNN-IBN.
Also, some more fleet size data:

Cathay Pacific of HongKong has 101 Aircraft in it's fleet with 33 on order.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) a major Airline of Japan has 156 Aircraft with 109 more on order. I rest my case about IA-AI merger NOT going to be the largest Airline in Asia. Nor is the combination going to be among the best either, but that's a topic for another day.

Venkat Ramanan said...

You know why the media calls it "The largest Asian carrier"??!
Because, The neta says so! [:)]

I saw Praful Patel saying this on TV "This merger will create Asia's largest carrier" (I NEVER expected him to say this, since I thought he was one of the saner cabinet ministers!!)

Subjects follow what the king says! [:)]

Venkat Ramanan said...

BTB Captain,
You could write about how good or worse could this merger be!! I know there would be more of negatives but am having a faint hope that they will re-discover themselves at least due to growing competition!!
First of all, I don't understand, Why should govt run airlines, subsidise something that ONLY rich use!!! [:o]

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Venkat, I am shocked. I guess I did not see the minister making such an error, especially Praful Patel (and he's been my favorite Civil Aviation Minister, the best India's had-ever). But then, he would have said what his advisors would have told him to say. He's got a room full of secretaries of Civil Aviation, IAS chaps no less, and they would have briefed him about what to say. Speaks volumes of the caliber of our babus and netas!
The again, the media just went about mouthing what the neta said without verifying it and in the video version that I saw on IBN online, the lady reporting the story just makes a sweeping statement that the merger is going to create the biggest carrier in Asia. She did not say the minister said so, in effect trying to take credit perhaps. Sadly, there are many of us doubting thomases who don't buy any story the first time around and actually do some checking!
I'd say it would be a challenge to write about the after effects of the merger given that the two behemoths of Indian aviation is top heavy, middle management heavy and bottom heavy (simply too many people working for the two companies) and both have so many unions representing so many groups of employees that it is ridiculous. Obviously the babus don't want to change anything because they like being in control and obviously the Netas don't want to change anything because its not the popular thing to do (with respect to the left chappies, the rest of India wouldn't care).

Nikhil Joshi said...

And who creates the "glamour" tag anyway? Lets see... EUREKA!! MEDIA, it is!
These journos are a pretty naive bunch..."research" seems to be a non-existent in their vocab!
The glamour tag is created ONLY because of false reports like these. They can lay blame on the netas for giving them wrong info, but if anyone, the MEDIA should know that netas never give right info anyway! Isn't the media the first to point THAT out?
This could well be a ploy to attract shareholders...who knows?
Thanks for pointing this fact out Capt.!

Consumer said...

I think the 'largest in Asia ' tag is not surprising from CNN-IBN, as being the largest is all news channels worry about all the time. And in an industry where that means willy nilly picking facts as they suit them,(witness the way TV channels will pick select data on ratings from TAM to project their leadership) in this case, ignoring Japan and China must have been easy.

But Japan, it must be said, has pretty much been exclusided from Asian rankings throughout Asia, kind of making them a geographical oddity which just happens to be in our continent, when they shd have been in Europe of North America:)

For us in India, desperate to believe in our impending glory, China is probably worth ignoring, when it suits us..

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Nikhil and Consumer. You are right when you say that Japan is a bit of an oddity.
Despite some of the criticism that IBN may have come across by making this report, they seem to not mind it or perhaps just ignore it because they have put that story again today (March 2nd). Here's the link:

This is a channel that "dares" to make mistakes and not care at all about the quality of their reporting!

Anonymous said...

I guess the Indian media definition of Asians refers to brown people only, thus China and Japan are excluded. ;)