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Air India: Air India takes a swipe at IndiGo over ‘manhandling incident’

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NEW DELHI: The Maharaja, which IndiGo wants to acquire, on Wednesday released tongue-in-cheek ads taking a pun at the low cost carrier’s ongoing trouble. Air India released Twitter ads saying “We raise our hands only to say Namaste” and another which simply said “Unbeatable service” with beat in blue colours — associated with IndiGo — and rest of the alphabets in AI’s trademark red colour.

The ads are a clever pun on the recent manhandling of an IndiGo passenger. When asked about the wording and timing of these ads, AI spokesman G P Rao said: “We are only highlighting our unbeatable service. (If you link it to the ongoing IndiGo controversy) that is purely coincidental.”

Another ad, with Jet Airways written boldly, proclaimed the Naresh Goyal-promoted carrier beats competition, “not you”. It soon went viral. However, Jet Airways immediately clarified in a statement that it had nothing to do with this ad.

“Jet Airways did not commission the creative being shared on social media platforms, in context of a recent event concerning another domestic airline. The creative does not reflect our philosophy and ethos and is in fact, in bad taste,” Jet said in a statement.

This is not the first time that AI and IndiGo have had an ad war. Last September, AI put up billboards behind its check-in counters at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport saying, “Wish you a comfortable flight. Next time fly with Air India and feel the difference”. These ads only highlighted AI’s hot meals, extra legroom and more baggage allowance and did not name any rival airline.

In response, IndiGo had quickly set up small ad boards, saying, “Yes, Air India, there is a difference. Says the Government.” IndiGo then referred to DGCA data which showed its on time performance was ‘best’ and AI’s ‘worst’. It added that August, 2016, data showed IndiGo had ‘lowest’ and AI ‘highest’ customer complaints.

AI had then written to Mumbai Airport management: “To our shock we found that IndiGo has kept placards on their check-in counters at Terminal 1B displaying Air India in a very negative way, which is not acceptable to us and we at Air India do not believe in such type of negative advertisement for our competitor airlines.”

Airline ad wars go back a long time. In 2007 when Kingfisher used to boast of its ultra-comfortable interiors, a rival airline removed a row of seats from its planes to give more leg room to flyers. It then came up with big hoarding ads saying, “We have changed.” Kingfisher put equal size hoardings saying, “We made them change.” A third airline then came out with ads, saying, “We have not changed. We are the smartest way to fly.”

This started a spate of humorous ad wars, with Kingfisher taking digs at low cost rivals. In more recent times, ads taking pun on words blue — associated with IndiGo — and red — related to SpiceJet — are common.

More recently earlier this year when Air India turned vegetarian on domestic flights, a rival airline came out with a Twitter ad showing chicken and veg biryani and then telling its flyers that they are free to choose which they want to eat.

Updated: November 8, 2017 — 8:45 pm

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