(Image: Amit Dave/ REUTERS)
India’s flagship carrier Air India is all set for new flight path as the union cabinet on Wednesday cleared the decks for the airline’s disinvestment. “Cabinet has given in-principle nod for the disinvestment of Air India,” India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said. He added that a Group of Ministers (GoM) would be setup to look in to the disinvestment process.
At the time of filing this report it was unclear as to how the Narendra Modi-led government plans to undertake the disinvestment of Air India, either through an outright sale or partially divest its stake. The government’s think tank Niti Aayog had recommended a complete privatisation of the airline, which has a debt in excess of Rs 52,000 crore.
In a recent interview to Forbes India, Air India’s former executive director Jitender Bhargava said it would be a “welcome measure” if the government went ahead with Air India’s disinvestment in whatever form. “One only wished it had come 10 to 15 years earlier,” Bhargava quipped. And added, “I’m a strong advocate of privatisation because I'm convinced that Air India in its current avatar can neither survive nor be revived.”
Air India is the third largest airline in the country having a 13.6 percent share in domestic air passenger traffic. In the first quarter of the current calendar year the airline flew 1.36 million passengers, while Jet Airways flew 1.81 million passengers and IndiGo 3.97 million passengers.