‘Rumors of Shutdown Are Baseless’: Air India Chief Ashwani Lohani

Air India chief Ashwani Lohani on Saturday, 4 January said that "rumours" of the disinvestment-bound airline's shutdown are "all baseless", weeks after he informed the Civil Aviation Ministry that the carrier's financial situation was "grossly untenable" for sustaining operations.

“Air India the national carrier is still the biggest airline of India," the Air India Chairman and Managing Director tweeted.

"“Rumours regarding Air India shutting down or closing operations are all baseless. Air India would continue to fly and also expand and there should be no cause for concern whatsoever to travelers, corporates or agents.”" - Ashwani Lohani, Air India Chairman and Managing Director

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In a letter to the ministry last month, he said, "It also needs appreciation that the overall financial situation is grossly untenable and the airline may not be able to sustain physical operations in the absence of immediate government intervention and support that we have been repeatedly requesting for in the recent past."

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri clarified on 31 December 2019 that the national carrier, which is incurring a loss of Rs 20-26 crore daily, will keep on running till it is privatised.

"“We made an attempt two years ago. That attempt proved to be less than successful. We have learnt from that experience. It is our endeavour now that we will be issuing an expression of interest in the coming few weeks. Hopefully, sooner than later,”" - Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Minister

Also Read: ‘Air India Would Be Closed If Not Privatised’: Hardeep Singh Puri

While Air India's net loss in 2018-19 was around Rs 8,556 crore, its current total debt is around Rs 80,000 crore.

In 2018, the government had proposed to offload 76 percent equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control to private players.

However, the offer failed to attract any bidder when the deadline for initial bids closed on 31 May 2018. Therefore, the Centre re-started the disinvestment process this year.

The Centre plans to divest its entire stake in Air India this time so as to make it attractive for private entities.

At a meeting with some 13 Air India unions in Delhi on Thursday 2 January, Puri said that the government was trying to address the concerns of the employees regarding issues such as job protection post privatisation of the airline.

Also Read: Air India Chief Addresses Divestment Jitters in an Open Letter

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