Buyers across the world interested in Air India: Puri

Buyers across the world interested in Air India: Puri

(DH File Photo)

After a failed bid to privatise cash-strapped Air India, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday claimed buyers from across the world have evinced interest in purchasing the national air carrier.

Puri made it clear that there would be “no wavering” on part of the government, like last year, on holding back 24% share in Air India, which had turned away potential buyers.

“It is very clear that there should be total privatisation. We have to get the best possible deal. And we have to get it in the shortest time available,” the minister said but refused to share plans of the government to tackle Air India's rising debts to the tune of Rs 58,300 crore.

Earlier, Air India Chairman-cum-Managing Director Ashwani Lohani said the airliner had pared back its losses of last year and anticipated an operating profit this fiscal. Lohani said in the first four months of the last fiscal, Air India had posted a loss of Rs 802 crore, while for the corresponding period of the current fiscal, the losses were pegged at Rs 170 crore.

He said the passenger load factor for the airline was 82%, which was a slight improvement over last year and there were plans to introduce 21 new flights by the end of the year without any addition to the existing fleet.

Puri described Air India as a “first-rate airline” and whoever would acquire it would be able to run it with strong private sector principles.

He exuded confidence over the success of the privatisation process and the interested players would be revealed once a formal Expression of Interest is released.

The minister appeared to make light of the Indian Oil decision to stop fuel supply to Air India at six airports due to payment default.

“All the fuel that the airline is picking on a daily basis, it is paying for. The issue here is of pending bills. There are no disruptions. Wherever there were issues, they are looking for a letter of comfort. I have told the Air India CMD to provide that letter of comfort,” Puri said.