Published on Monday, December 23, 2019

Unions urge Indian government not to sell flag carrier

A group of seven unions are pleading with the government not to sell off Air India.

They are pleading with the Modi administration to call off divestment plans of India's 'jewel' insisting the debt-ridden airline can still be turned around.

In a joint letter to the PM, the unions suggested Air India should become a board-managed company while writing off its debts.

"Air India has been reporting operational profit for as long as three years. Servicing the loans is a major challenge. We urge the government to consider waiving off the credits and have the airline run by a professional management," the joint letter said.

The letter was penned by unions including the Indian Commercial Pilot's Association, All India Cabin Crew Association and the Indian Pilots' Guild.

The government is preparing expressions of interest for up to 100% of Air India, while also shifting more of its debt into a separate asset holding company to ensure it actually gets serious bids this time.

Air India's total debt is reputed to be as high as $7 billion.

Even with prospective buyers off the hook for a big chunk of its debt, it will likely still struggle to find a serious buyer.

Despite an attempt to sell off some non-core assets in recent months, it is still highly inefficient and over-staffed.

The bidding process could begin next month with the government hoping to complete all formalities by the end of March 2020.

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