Promising to recast the board of Air India in a month, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on Wednesday said the government cannot help the cash-strapped national carrier "beyond a point" and asked it to change its work culture.
"Air India will be restructured financially, organisationally. I am very sure it will start making profits soon and we will silence all the critics," Patel told reporters on the margins of an aviation industry conference.
"The airline's operations will have to be streamlined," he said, adding, "The government also will not interfere into its problems beyond a point. The management has to address the problems. I am hopeful the carrier will be able to come out of its problems."
The minister said the government was now looking at hiring skilled professionals for the national advisory board of the carrier, with the hope that this would help turn the airline around with some new ideas.
"There has to be change in the ethos and the work culture of the airline. The government will be happy to help them but we expect equal amount of enthusiasm from Air India."
The carrier is in a financial mess with losses expected to have topped Rs.5,000 crore ($1 billion) last fiscal, forcing Patel to seek a Rs 10,000-crore (about $2-billion) bailout package for the beleaguered carrier from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Air India is also raising a $1-billion loan from overseas to fund its fleet expansion programme. The 11-year loan is expected to be guaranteed by the US Export-Import Bank.
Asked about full-service carriers like Air India proposing to turn themselves into low-cost airlines in a bid to tide over one of the worst crises in the global aviation industry in recent years, Patel said: "More such things will occur in a year or two".
The national carrier, for example, had announced recently that its low-cost arm, Air India Express, which mainly flies to the Gulf sector, will start domestic flights this year.