Amid reports of Air India shutting down by June 2020, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri addressed the press on the matter and cleared the air about Air India shutting down. While addressing the press, Hardeep Singh Puri clarified that the government has no option but to privatise Air India.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri: I had said earlier also, for us it is not an option, Air India has to be privatised. pic.twitter.com/1yETgm8j97— ANI (@ANI) December 31, 2019
He said, "Air India is a national asset. It has been the flagship flag carrier in terms of civil aviation. The Maharaja is a great brand that owns 120 aircraft, half of which are owned by us and half of them are leased. It flies to about 40-50 international destinations and a large number of domestic destinations."
Clarifying the air over the statement by the official about Air India shutting down, he said, "Air India is widely regarded as one of the better airlines in the world. Air India over a period of time has now gathered an 'unsustainable' debt. Don't go by the statements. Whoever made the statement is expressing a broad sentiment."
"Over a period, management of the airlines has gone to the government asking for the infusion of funds. The government has to be clear about what the ultimate utilisation of money is going to be," he added.
Earlier on Monday, an Air India official had stated that the national carrier will be forced to shut down if a concrete solution to save the company is not found. Air India is surviving on repeated taxpayer bailouts by the government while it reels under a debt load of near Rs 58,000 crores. The government has been planning to sell the cash-strapped company and has set an aim to do so by March 2020.
According to the Central Government, it has infused funds to the tune of Rs 30,520.21 crore in Air India from the financial year 2011-12 till December this year. However, repeated bailout attempts have failed to get the carrier back on its feet. The government is drawing plans to privatise the carrier but has so far failed to get it through. The main hurdle that experts say has derailed the carrier's privatisation plan is investor scare of its oversized staff and debt obligations.