The government is committed to disinvestment of Air India but wants the national carrier to remain in Indian hands, Lok Sabha was informed on Thursday (July 11).
Responding to a series of supplementaries during Question Hour, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri also said that, though Air India is doing “extremely well”, the debt burden on the carrier is “unsustainable”. Referring to the airline sector in the country, he said that, except in April when Jet Airways ceased functioning, the market growth has been on an average at 17 per cent per annum.
When Jet ended its operations, there were 540 aircraft with Indian carriers and the number now stands at 570-580 and new planes are being introduced every month. Manish Tewari (Cong) wanted to know why the government was disinvesting Air India when it was doing well.
Puri said that the debt burden of the airline was a major reason the Centre wanted to disinvest it. He said the previous attempt to disinvest the carrier could not succeed. But now the government has learnt lessons and mechanism will ensure the move this time.
He also said the government wants the airline to remain in Indian hands and the disinvestment mechanism will take care of the details. The minister also informed the House that when the Pakistan airspace was closed following a stand off between the two countries, Air India had to spend an extra ₹430 crore on longer routes.