Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: The much-awaited, keenly debated merger of the two public sector carriers - Air India and Indian Airlines - into a single airline is almost complete and the emergence of the new entity, the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), is awaiting a formal order from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).

With NACIL being the parent company, the post-merger brand name will be Air India with two other business arms: Air India Express — the low cost carrier that flies to destinations in the Gulf and will launch domestic operations as well — and Air India Cargo — the new separate, dedicated freighter service.

After a comprehensive meeting here on Wednesday that reviewed the ongoing merger process, V. Thulasidass, Chairman and Managing Director of Air India, told reporters that the legal process of merger would be over once the airline received the order from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. “We expect it anytime now,” he added.

Mr. Thulasidass who has also been named as the new CMD of the merged carrier Air India said the review meeting focussed more on the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility for the new airline.

At the meeting, presided over by the Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and attended by Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla and the top brass of both Air India and Indian Airlines, it was decided to ask their consultant, Accenture, to examine in detail all aspects of MRO and submit a report within a month.

Replying to queries, Mr. Thulasidass said that discussions also centred on having a common IT platform, coordinating and finetuning synergies for the future and joining a global alliance like Star or One World. He said that a fuller picture would emerge during this year’s winter schedule of the airline and much ground would have been covered by the summer of 2008.

New carrier

He said after the merger the new carrier would have a fleet of 112 aircraft and nearly 34,000 employees. “By 2011, our fleet strength will grow to about 130-135 aircraft as we get deliveries of new planes and phase out older ones,” he added.

Asked if the new airline would be able to compete globally in the face of private Indian airlines also launching operations to the U.S. and Canada, the Air India CMD said that the recently launched non-stop service of Air India between Mumbai and New York, being operated by the brand new Boeing 777 aircraft, has set a new benchmark for all other airlines to follow.