No immediate plan to divest Air India: Govt

No immediate plan to divest Air India: Govt

Three months after the proposed stake sale of debt-laden Air India failed to take off, the government told a Parliamentary panel on Wednesday that there was “no immediate plan” to disinvest the public carrier.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, headed by Trinamool Congress member Derek O’Brien, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said no disinvestment is proposed in the near future.

When the Aviation Secretary informed that the government is working on ways to revive the fortunes of the airline, the members for their part sought details of taxpayers' money infused into the carrier in the last few years. 

He was also grilled on exorbitant increase in excess luggage charges and anomalies related to dynamic pricing of tickets by airlines, 

The panel has called before it the CMD of Air India Pradeep Singh Kharola on Thursday.

In June last year, the Union Cabinet had given in principle approval to divest stakes in Air India but the debt-laden state owned carrier failed to get any bidder. 

The public carrier's debt burden was more than Rs 48,000 crore at the end of March 2017 even after having already received more than Rs 27,000 crore worth equity infusion as per the Turnaround Plan (TAP) as well as a Financial Restructuring Plan (FRP) approved by the previous UPA regime way back in 2012.

Choubey also faced queries on the success of the central government’s UDAN scheme, which aims at providing regional connectivity.

Excess baggage levy

Several members raised the exorbitant hike in excess luggage charges by different airlines and the unreasonably high pricing of tickets due to dynamic pricing.

Except Air India in which economy class domestic flyers can check-in with up to 25 kg without any charge, all private airlines levy extra charges for luggage more than 15 kg, which ranges from Rs 220 to Rs 350 per kg.

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