Tamil Tribune

Hindi, Tamil, State Languages in Airline Flights (India)

Vimala Kannappan

TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2003 (ID. 2003-07-02); Updated January 2017
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USA - United States of America

Our family is from Tamilnadu. My husband is a software consultant. I live with my husband and our two daughters in USA. A few years ago we wanted to come home to visit our family. 

I went to a travel agency to buy airline tickets. A lady was at the front office. I told her our preferred dates of travel. Then I added, "Any airline other than Air India, please". She looked at me at askance, a pause, then said, "Not Air India?" I said, "Any airline other than Air India. We do not like hearing those Hindi announcements all through the flight." 

"Don't know Hindi?", she asked.

"We are from Tamilnadu. We don't like hearing those Hindi announcements. We oppose Hindi as India's official language."

The lady smiled with an amused expression and started looking for flights. At this time a gentleman came out from the back office. I recognized that he was Sikh, from his dress. The lady told him, "She is from Tamilnadu. She does not want to fly Air India because she does not want to listen to Hindi announcements."

He said, "OK. Book her in another airline." Then he turned to me, "Good for you. We respect Tamil Nadu for standing up to the Indian Government. We have our problems with it too." 

He then turned to the lady and said, "We should stop using Air India too." She smiled. 

All of my husband's family avoids using Indian Government run businesses. I know it is not always possible. Whenever we can, we use alternate services even if it is a little inconvenient. We almost always travel by bus instead of using Indian Railways. We don't have accounts with Indian Government run banks. No one in our extended family flies Air India or Indian Airlines, whether on business travel or personal travel or on tourism. Why should a Dubai to Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum) flight make announcements in Hindi and English? They should be in Malayalam, Arabic and English. Why should the announcements in Indian Airlines flights between Thiruchirapalli (Trichi) and Chennai (Madras) be in Hindi and English? They should be in Tamil and English.

UPDATE (January 2017)

As of 2017, a  number of foreign airlines and India-based private airlines flying to destinations in India use the state language (Tamil in Chennia/Tamilnadu, Kannada in Bengaluru/Karnataka, Malayalam in Thiruvananthapuram/Kerala, etc.). We thank each and every one of them. Some of them provide menus printed in the state language as well as show in-flight movies in the state language. Contact the airlines' customer service or Facebook page to check if your mother tongue is available in their flights. 

FIS161226m    2003-a1d

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