Taking their woes to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, top bosses of India's airlines on Saturday sought his intervention to help them tide over the “bad operating climate” that has pushed all carriers into a deep financial crisis.
Dr. Singh gave them a “patient hearing” during the hour-long, high level meeting here and said the government would discuss their “legitimate grievances” to find ways and means of helping the ailing civil aviation sector, particularly airlines, come out of the crisis. Official sources, however, said Dr. Singh did not give the airlines any assurance.
A senior Civil Aviation Ministry official said: “We will await instructions from the Prime Minister's Office.”
Those who attended the meeting included Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal, IndiGo promoter and CEO Rahul Bhatia and Aditya Ghosh, SpiceJet CEO Neil Mills, Kingfisher CEO Sanjay Aggarwal, Go Air owner Jeh Wadia and top officials from the GMR group, which has constructed new airports in Delhi and Hyderabad on the public-private partnership model.
Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Pulok Chatterjee and other senior government officials were present.
Recently, the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), a representative body, warned that a “bad operating climate” might compel some domestic carriers to default on servicing their debt, bringing them to the brink of closure.
While the Indian civil aviation sector has been witnessing a high passenger and cargo growth rate, all airlines are burdened with a high rate of debt and have reported substantial losses.
Saturday's meeting came at a time when the Indian carriers, according to an FIA estimate, are likely to suffer a collective loss of Rs. 3,500 crore in the first six months of this financial year.
During the quarter ended September 30, Jet Airways posted a loss of Rs. 713 crore, while Vijay Mallya-owned Kingfisher's loss was put at Rs. 469 crore.
Ahead of the meeting, on Friday, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said the sector's huge losses were posing a “problem.” He said Dr. Singh was concerned as it was the major institution of connectivity, supporting the country's development.