Release funds for Air India, Patel to tell ministers

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel

The group of ministers (GoM) on civil aviation headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee meets on Wednesday to look into issues confronting the aviation sector.

“We would like to see what the government is doing for restructuring of Air India. I will take up the matter for immediate infusion of funds in Air India at the earliest before the GoM,” Patel told reporters on the sidelines of a conference organised by the ATC (air traffic controllers) Guild of India here on Tuesday.

The conference was titled 'ATM-Airline, airports strategies to meet safety, economic and environment challenges'. Last month, a committee of secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary had cleared Rs.5,000 crore for Air India over the next three years, with a condition that the airline would cut costs and raise its revenue.

“The government's support is there. They (employees of Air India) are no doubt the strength of Air India but they also have to understand that without cost-cutting and restructuring of the carrier we cannot ask for help,” the minister said. The civil aviation ministry would seek Rs.2,000 crore as equity this year along with Rs.3,000 crore under a capital acquisition programme.
 
The government's bailout plan would be through the induction of equity and the restructuring of high-cost debt into low-cost debt. The airline had announced plans last month to cut performance-related pay by up to 50 percent for over 7,000 employees, including the top management, but the employees are not willing to take a cut. The airline has lost over $1.5 billion since the last fiscal.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had constituted a ministerial group (GoM on civil aviation) to look into the issue of high aviation fuel prices in India that has exacerbated the current crisis in the industry. The minister also stated that there were no more shortages of ATCs in the country. “There were certainly shortages a few years ago but not today. The recruitment of air traffic controllers has been on on a regular basis.”

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