The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday asked governments across the world to release blocked funds to their airlines and repatriate their revenues.
At its ongoing annual meeting and the World Air Transport Summit here, IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac said a total of about USD 5 billion worth of funds remained blocked at the end of 2017 in some 16 countries.
As per an RTI reply in March this year, the government owed over Rs 325 crore to Air India in unpaid bills for VVIP chartered flights to foreign countries.
“The connectivity provided by aviation is vital to economic growth and development as it supports jobs and trade … But airlines need to have confidence that they will be able to repatriate their revenues in order to bring these benefits to markets,” de Juniac said.
He called on the governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate revenues from ticket sales and other activities.
According to IATA, the amount of airline funds blocked from repatriation totalled USD 4.9 billion at the end of 2017, which was down 7 per cent compared to year-end 2016.
However, airline funds remain blocked in some 16 countries, it said without identifying all of them.
The top five markets with blocked funds identified by the IATA are Venezuela with USD 3.78 billion, Angola (USD 386 million), Sudan (USD 170 million), Bangladesh (USD 95 million) and Zimbabwe (USD 76 million).
However, Nigeria has cleared a backlog of USD 600 million, while Angola has brought the amount down by USD 120 million.
Air India, which recently witnessed a lack of interest by investors in the process of its disinvestment, has Rs 325.81 crore in pending bills.
As on January 31 this year, Rs 84.01 crore was carried forward from the previous financial year and the remaining Rs 241.8 crore generated this year, the airline had said in the RTI reply.
Air India modifies its commercial jets as chartered aircraft for overseas trips by VVIPs such as the President, Vice-President and the Prime Minister. The bills are paid by the defence and foreign ministries, the Prime Minister's Office and the cabinet secretariat.
Separately, the civil aviation ministry had reportedly said that the outstanding bills totalled Rs 345.95 crore as on December 31 last year. It had said that in addition to the VVIP flights, this amount included unpaid bills of Rs 20.97 crore towards evacuation missions of Indian citizens from places like Cairo, Iraq and Malta between 2011 and 2014.
A fuel bill of Rs 23 lakh for the September 2005 flight to the US carrying relief material for Hurricane Katrina victims was also pending with the defence ministry, reports had said.