Peter Mahta, North American Pioneer for Air India, Dies at 90
By James Ruggia
August 02, 2012 11:36 PM
A pioneer of Asian travel passed on last week when Peter Mahta, Air India's first regional director of U.S. and Canada, died in New York at the age of 90. Mahta joined Air India in 1948 as a personal hire by J. R. D. Tata, just a year after India declared independence from Britain. As the executive who spearheaded Air India’s New York presence in 1960, Mahta mentored an entire generation of airline executives. It is often said that he put Air India on the map in the U.S. and Canada, serving the airline for 32 years.
Born in Oxford, England, Mahta studied at England’s Willington College. At the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Royal Indian Artillery and served in Burma from 1940 to 1945, ending his army career with the rank of major. He left Air India in 1980 and joined Oberoi Hotels as vice president.
Andy Bhatia, Air India's former area sales manager, based in New York, said, “It was a privilege and good fortune to have known Mr. Mahta, both as a boss and later as a friend. He started the North American operations of Air India at a time when people knew very little about India. His style and demeanor set him apart. He distinguished himself with his pleasing personality and knowledge of the aviation industry.” An avid runner, Mahta ran 15 consecutive marathons in New York.