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What is the fate of Air India?

The country’s national airline and the largest international carrier out of India; government owned Air India is no national pride. The airline, quite like the sector in general, is railing due to a number of internal and external factors. The government has been footing the bill and keeping the airline afloat for more than half a decade. The carrier has received budgetary support from the government totaling ₹ 30,520 crore so far as part of its turnaround plan that was put into effect in 2012.

The government; tired of bleeding cash, finally decided on a disinvestment program in 2017 to sell a 76% majority stake in Air India and privatise the airline.

However, the disinvestment program conducted last year failed due to lack of interest from bidders. Subsequently, it was decided to put a temporary halt to the disinvestment program due volatile crude oil prices, fluctuations in exchange rates and a non conducive atmosphere.

However, statements made by officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation on Thursday now clarified that plans to sell the debt laden state run carrier are back on track and the government expects to go forward with the disinvestment plan with renewed vigour.

While we cannot find fault with the intention of the government to hive off its loss making unit, it’s hard to fathom just who would want to make such a big dent in their pocket and purchase the national carrier.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced the provisional results of Air India on Thursday. The audited final results are expected to be released within a fortnight.

Provisional figures showed that the national carrier posted a loss of ₹ 7,365 crore for the year ended 31st March 2019, widening its loss from ₹ 5,337 crore reported last year. The loss was on account of a weak rupee, fluctuating crude oil prices and interest payments on its large debt. The net debt of the airline stood at ₹ 58,352 crore as at March 2019, marginally above the ₹ 55,000 crore figure in F.Y. 2018.

The final results are expected to report an increase in revenue due to an increase in the number of passengers. Air India, which has a fleet of 128 aircrafts, started operations on thirteen new domestic routes and six international routes during fiscal year 2018-19. In addition, bilateral flying rights with five countries that were previously allocated to Jet Airways have been temporarily allocated to Air India following the grounding of the Naresh Goyal founded airline.

 

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