The employees union of Air India representing retired its personnel today termed the government’s move to privatise the airline “unpatriotic” and “illogical” in a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju. The letter also says that the government’s priority should be to restructure the airline’s huge debt. The All India Airlines Retired Personnel Association (AIARPA), which has written the letter, represents nearly 11,000 former employees of Air India. “Why has the government announced the decision to privatise AI — a decision taken in great haste — just at a time when the airline is on the verge of becoming profitable.
“The move is unpatriotic as well as not logical at this point of time,” the union said in the letter. For the first time in a decade, the airline posted an operational profit of Rs 105 crore in 2015-2016. It rose to Rs 300 crore in 2016-2017. “For now the restructuring of debt be carried out,” said the letter.
The union also proposed that the government could waive Air India’s Rs 52,000 crore debt so that it can “forge ahead” like it plans to do to make the national carrier attractive for a private player.
It also claims that private investors are “interested” in AI because it is operationally profitable, has a large fleet of aircraft, a profitable low-cost international carrier like Air India Express, profitable ground handling services, and prime slots at airports around the country and the world, among other factors. “The real reform needed is for compensating for costs incurred in implementing specific government policies, not in line with their commercial objectives,” adds the letter.