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Talk of privatising Air India too premature

Hong Kong by an Air India

New Delhi: Any talk of privatising Air India would be “premature” at this stage even as there is a need to re-visit its Turnaround Plan (TAP) in view of the changing micro-economic situation, top sources in AI Board have said.

They said that the advisory panel, which the government is mulling setting up for the national carrier, should have academicians and independent analysts as its members for a “fair” and “objective” assessment of its viability as a national carrier.

“It would be too early to talk about privatisation of Air India at this stage. What you actually need is a complete re-look at the airline’s revival plan and then decide whether it should remain with the State or go to private hands,” a source told here.

Noting that the micro-economic situation has gone a sea change since 2012, when the government had approved its turnaround plan, the source said, “No one had imagined crude oil prices would fall to USD 45 or foreign direct investment by the foreign airlines would be allowed in domestic airlines.”

The comments came in the backdrop of media reports that some of the AI independent directors were pushing for its privatistaion and had even communicated their views to the Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju in this regard recently.

The erstwhile UPA dispensation had in 2012 approved Air India’s turnaround plan, with a committed public funding of Rs 30,231 crore, staggered over a period of nine years, with some specific riders.

Emphasising that the state-run carrier has shown a marked improvement in its finances in the last fiscal and has met some of the key targets as stipulated in the TAP, the source said, “One has to consider all these factors and then a take a pragmatic view on the whole issue.”

The airline in its budget estimates for this fiscal, presented late last month, has forecast that it would become operationally profitable by March next year, much ahead of the TAP projections.

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