Minister asks AI to run it as a commercial entity

Air India is drawing up plans to deploy five new Boeing Dreamliners B-787, which it expects to receive in the next few weeks, on the Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Bali and Istanbul routes, Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said on Thursday.

So far Air India has received three Dreamliners.

Mr. Singh has asked Air India to explore the possibility of flying to Indonesia, including Bali, Istanbul and beyond too.

The Minister made this suggestion at a meeting called to review the functioning of Air India, including its revenue generation and cash flow management as part of its turnaround and financial restructuring plans.

Expressing satisfaction over the payment of salaries to the employees till November, he said out of Rs. 2,000 crore which Air India would receive next month in the form of equity as budgetary support, Rs. 500 crore must be utilised to clear all arrears.

The Minister expressed concern at the estimated shortfall of about Rs. 404 crore in the monthly average cash flow. He directed Air India to try to ensure that the cash inflow matched the outflow. In the ongoing financial year so far, the airline's revenue was Rs. 1,348 crore and expenditure Rs. 1,752 crore. He asked it to go into operational details to cut costs, especially on heads such as its overseas offices, fuel, salaries and office expenses, the spokesperson said.

Asking Air India to think out of the box and run the organisation as a commercial entity, instead of a government-owned body, Mr. Singh said the airline should negotiate with public sector oil marketing companies for the same discount as they provided to the international and other Indian carriers.

He directed it to examine whether it was necessary to depute staff abroad for assisting embassies to provide ticketing and other facilities, as such services were now available online.

An automated Crew Management System (Auto Roster) would become operational for pilots by next month and for cabin crew by February-March next year.

The system is an algorithm that automates the task of Flight Duty Assignments aiming at equalising flying hours, sectors flown, day and night flights, number of landings and other parameters.

Mr. Singh also stressed on need to screen the employees, including the cabin crew on various parameters such as medical fitness.

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