The Civil Aviation Ministry has sought more budgetary support for the ailing national carrier Air India claiming that about 65 per cent of the turnaround plan of the airline has been implemented.
The issue of additional support was raised by Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi at a meeting here on Wednesday with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, during which they discussed issues pertaining to the aviation sector in the upcoming Budget.
“We informed him that whatever decision had been taken, we have implemented almost 65 per cent of it and something more remains to be implemented,” Mr. Ravi told journalists after the hour-long meeting.
Regarding government guarantees on the hefty loans Air India has taken to fund its fleet acquisition, he said, “The guarantee has to come because the RBI, the SBI need some kind of assurance. All financial matters were discussed with the Finance Minister.”
He said certain clarifications had been sought by Finance Ministry officials. The replies would be sent soon so that a final decision on the matter could be taken at the earliest.
Asked whether the Ministry has asked for additional equity infusion of Rs. 2,000 crore, he said, “I have asked for little more money, I cannot tell you how much.”
Mr. Ravi said the government would help Air India but it would come “depending on how we are progressing step by step. So it means we have to earn more money and gradually reach the break-even point.” Air India has so far received a total of Rs. 2,000 crore as equity in two tranches.
Official sources said a provision for at least Rs. 1,200 crore worth of equity could be made in the 2011-12 budget and another tranche could be given in the supplementary budget later this year.
Asked about the progress of Air India's turnaround plan, Mr. Ravi said a major issue was that of integration of employees and assets of the two erstwhile public sector carriers - Indian Airlines and Air India. “My first priority is my employees. Integration is the main point. I am going to look into pricing of tickets as well as routes,” he said.
The Minister said that he would hold meetings with leaders of all trade unions in Air India in Mumbai on Wednesday to seek their cooperation to turnaround the carrier. The airline has 32,000 employees on its rolls and another 10,000 are said to be on contract.