Yes, it is true. Our national flagship carrier is set to be sold in a period of the next 6 months. A senior airline official said there is no way out than privatization for Air India, otherwise, the government has to shut down the Air India operations by June 2020.
Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Tuesday,
“The Indian government has not fixed any deadline for the privatization of debt-ridden Air India and plans to offer the national carrier for sale in a matter of weeks.”
The airline has a debt burden of around Rs 60,000 crore and makes about Rs 26 crore loss a day.
In November last year, the aviation minister told Parliament that the airline will have to close down if it’s not privatized, and the response of investors could only be gauged once bids were invited for its sale.
Earlier, the Press Trust of India, quoting an unnamed senior airline official, said in a report that the struggling carrier might be forced to shut down by June next year unless it finds a buyer as “piecemeal” arrangements cannot be sustained for long.
But Puri said on Monday that the privatization efforts for Air India was on track and proceeding well.
Tuesday, Puri said that the national carrier, which makes about Rs 26 crore loss a day, has robust service network in domestic, international market and has a good brand name and that the government was serious in its effort to privatize the airline.
Puri also said that Air India won’t be shut down. The airline is facing stress like some of the companies in other sectors like real estate. He, however, declined to comment on the government’s expectations about how much the proposed sale may fetch.
In response to questions whether the government would be able to complete the sale process by March and whether the carrier may have to be shut down by June if there are no buyers, Puri said that the airline’s privatization has been set in motion and will go through with the process “whether it happens by March or June.”
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“Air India is a national asset. It has been the flagship company, flag carrier in terms of our civil aviation. The Maharaja is a great brand, owns 120 aircraft, half of which are owned and the rest are leased. It flies to 40-50 international destinations… We will be seeking the expression of interest (EoI) in the coming few weeks and hopefully, sooner than later, the process of privatisation will set in,” said Puri.