March 28, 2020
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'A-I Can't Run Sans Divestment'

Civil aviation minister Sharad Yadav believes his actions will only aid disinvestment. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

'A-I Can't Run Sans Divestment'
Jitender Gupta
'A-I Can't Run Sans Divestment'
Doubts are being raised about divestment in A-I...
There are no doubts at all. Interested parties have completed the due diligence process. Disinvestment will be on course.

But isn't it unusual for A-I to sign bilaterals while the disinvestment process is on?
There is nothing to be questioned. It's a win-win situation for us and we will give seats to other airlines in such a manner that it does not affect our traffic flow. In fact, our load factor has improved after the bilaterals. There is a lot of pressure to increase flights from and to our country. Chief ministers and ambassadors have all asked for more flights.

Will this affect the disinvestment or its price?
Why should it affect A-I disinvestment or the price? The pacts and seat sharing is giving A-I Rs 250 crore. And with today's demand for more flights in and out of India, there would be anarchy and panic if we did not sign the bilaterals. How will you manage the situation then?

But the benefits of the bilaterals are being enjoyed by others. A-I utilises less than 40 per cent of its bilaterals.
That is because we do not have enough aircraft to service the bilateral benefits.

Why can't A-I buy new aircraft?
We don't have funds for that. And that is why we are going for disinvestment.

Do you support disinvestment in A-I ?
A-I will not run without disinvestment. In 53 years, we have not got even one rupee in budgetary support from the government. The only way to induct fresh funds for the company is through disinvestment.

What is A-I's financial status now?
When I came in, A-I was running losses of over Rs 250 crore. In 1999-2000, it was reduced to Rs 38 crore and all this with the same fleet. This year, we expect losses to be down to about Rs 26 crore. If you account for an almost Rs 250-crore jump in fuel prices, then we would have had a comfortable profit. And we have a load factor of 73, which is above the average of 70.

Last year, it was said that A-I's disinvestment would be over by March 2001. When do we see it happening now?
Our work is over; it is up to the disinvestment department to complete the process. The ball is now in their court.
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