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Air India is seeking greater collaboration with Apple — but for what?

An Air India aircraft (Source: Eluveitie on Wiki Commons)

A delegation from Air India said that they visited Apple Park to discuss a collaboration, but beyond an improved flight navigation app for iPads it's not clear specifically why.

The news of Air India CEO Campbell Wilson and his team comes from an internal email to staff, in which Wilson described visiting many places including Stanford University.

"Dr Satya Ramaswamy and I, together with some of our colleagues, also spent time at Apple's head office in Palo Alto." wrote Wilson in an email seen by LiveMint, amongst others, "to explore opportunities for even deeper collaboration."

Nothing else of this internal email has been made public, but sources that have seen it various suggest that Air India wants Apple's design expertise and even its advice on cutting carbon usage.

However, Wilson did specify "even deeper collaboration."

Previous collaborations

So far the best-known collaborative efforts between Apple and Air India are to do with iPads, seemingly driven by Campbell Wilson's experience with them on other airlines.

In 2012, Wilson was CEO of a budget subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, called Scoot Pte. Under Wilson's aegis, the service's four Boeing 777 switched out all of its inflight entertainment systems and replaced them with iPads.

The result was that passengers could rent an iPad that came with a choice of entertainment, and they had it on a better screen than most airlines have. But the real difference was in what buying iPads did to the weight of the aircraft, and it's capacity.

Once the old systems had been stripped out, the aircraft's weight was reduced by 7% — and the seating capacity grew by 40%.

That was more than a decade ago and since then Wilson has moved to Air India, but seemingly he hasn't forgotten the benefits of the iPad. In May 2023, Air India announced that it had become one of Apple's largest customers for the iPad.

This time it wasn't just for passenger entertainment, either. One of the few details about Wilson's trip to Apple Park is the suggestion that Air India wants to work on some form of improved inflight navigation system for the iPad.

Air India is backed by the country's Tata Group. The group is now in the process of taking over Wistron's iPhone plant in Karnataka, India.