The failure of authorities to make operational the headquarters of the Air India Express (AIE), shifted from Mumbai to Kochi in February, is likely to end up in the State losing the office. (AIE is the no-frills airline of Air India).

Union Minister for Civil Aviation Vayalar Ravi had inaugurated the AIE headquarters on February 27 but the authorities had not been able to shift the staff from Mumbai (to Kochi) till date.

The Kochi office was being managed by a senior manager and a deputy manager, both retired employees, as the staff had shown reluctance to move to Kochi. Both the officers had not been assigned any duties, sources told The Hindu on Friday.

Several lakhs of rupees were spent to spruce up and furnish the first floor of the 4,000-odd sq ft office of the erstwhile Indian Airlines at DH Road to accommodate the corporate office. The ground floor housed the AI office. Even chief operating officer (COO) S. Chandrakumar, a native of Punalur in Kollam district, who was handpicked and given the task of turning around the low-cost carrier, had been working from New Delhi.

Besides housing the office of the COO, the corporate office was to have the offices of the heads of the commercial wing and finance wings. It was also decided to house the work schedule, cockpit crew schedule, flight networking schedule, cockpit training and licensing, human resource, legal, security, procedures, finance, and administration wings in the Kochi office.

Ground realities

The AIE's move to prepare flight schedules by taking into account the ground realities and needs of the people here also failed to take off, sources said.

The only solace was that the Crew Training Division was set up and 24 cabin crew recruited by the airline were trained here.

The decision to shift the headquarters to Kochi was taken to give more operational freedom to the airline that operated 70 per cent of the flights from the Kerala sector. Further, the shifting was to enable realistic decision-making and address region-specific travel needs.

Sources said the first low-cost carrier from the AI stable still enjoyed a 90 per cent load as it was the preferred airline of the working class. Sources said it offered convenient late-evening departures and early arrivals.

The first flight of the AIE was from Thiruvananthapuram to Abu Dhabi on March 19, 2005, when V. Thulasidas was the Chairman and Managing Director of the national carrier.

Of the 400-odd employees on the payroll of the AIE, nearly 200 were cabin crew and 70 cockpit crew.

The carrier had 21 aircraft, all new-generation Boeing 737-800 in its fleet at present.