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Rumours Of Air India Shutting Down Is Baseless: Chief Ashwani Lohani

Air India chief Ashwani Lohani on Saturday has turned down that “rumours” of disinvestment-bound airline’s shutdown are all baseless, weeks after he told the Civil Aviation Ministry that the carrier’s financial situation was grossly untenable for sustaining operations. Asserting that the national carrier is still India’s biggest airline, adding on that there should be “no cause for concern to travellers, corporates or agents”. 

The response from the airline comes two days after Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has met with several representatives of the Air India unions regarding the privatisation of the national carrier. The government has on Tuesday said the privatisation of debt-ridden Air India has become a compulsion as fear grows about the shutdown of the national carrier. In a letter to the ministry last month, Lohani 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”. 

What does the future hold for the Indian carrier? 

He further added that the Indian carrier will continue to fly and also expand and there should be no cause for concern whatsoever to travellers, corporates or agents. With the Centre trying to privatise the debt-ridden airline by strategically disinvesting its shares, in December 209 a Preliminary Information Memorandum for inviting Expression of Interest (EoI) for 100 per cent divestment of government stake in Air India. 

Air India which has a debt of nearly INR 80,000 crore, expects as sale to be finalised by July as no further financial support is being offered by the Centre, as that would “not be the best use of scarce financial resources” of the central government. With the Indian carrier incurring a loss of 20-26 crore on a daily basis, the Centre hopes that the divest of its entire stakes in Air India will make it attractive for private entities. However, what the future holds for Air India is certainly undetermined.

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