Minister Hardeep S Puri reiterated that it is not government’s business to run airlines and hence Maharaja must go to a private player.
Reaffirming government’s plans to go ahead with the divestment of ailing national carrier Air India, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep S Puri said that the “government is determined to privatise Air India”. Speaking at a press conference, the minister reiterated that it is not government’s business to run airlines and hence Maharaja must go to a private player. However, the Air India brand will remain Air India, he added. Further, a disinvestment plan is expected to be placed before a ministerial body which will be headed by Amit Shah, Union Home Minister. A final decision is expected soon on the timing, price and amount of shares of Air India to be sold.
The government has been trying for some time now to get a suitable buyer for the state-run airline which faces cash and payment dues of Rs 58,000 crore. Last week, three top fuel suppliers had also severed the supply to six Air India airports as the airline struggled to make payments.
The government had revealed its revamped plan to sell Air India during Union Budget 2019. Last time, the government had tried to sell a 76% stake in the airline to a private player, but the same didn’t fructify. The government has now set up the October 2019 deadline for Maharaja’s privatization, according to media reports. Air India is the second major Indian airline to face financial turbulence. Jet Airways had recently shut its operations due to the same reasons, resulting in chaos in the Indian aviation sector.
With a 12% market share of Indian domestic aviation, Air India is one of the original international carriers of domestic origin. An Air India spokesperson had recently said that even when the situation appears grim, the company is moving towards better profit. “Our financial performance, however, this fiscal is very good and we are moving towards a healthy operating profit. The airline despite its legacy issues is performing very well,” news agency PTI quoted the person as saying last week.