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Polls delay Air India’s bailout flight

The ailing ‘Maharaja’ is in the waiting lounge for a bailout package, thanks to elections that have delayed its already late flight to revival.
By Samiran Saha | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 01, 2009 09:23 PM IST

The ailing ‘Maharaja’ is in the waiting lounge for a bailout package, thanks to elections that have delayed its already late flight to revival.

Meanwhile, the meter is ticking.

State-run Air India has now sought about Rs 4,300 crore comprising an equity infusion (Rs 1,300 crore) and a soft loan (Rs 3,000 crore). This is twice the amount it had sought last year.

Things could worsen if the current swine flu anticipated to hit tourist traffic lingers on. India is expecting 5.5 million tourists in 2009.

“We may need to revise our projections further in case the swine influenza spreads across the continents as it could have a serious impact on our passenger load factor,” a senior Air India official on condition of anonymity.

Since outbreak of the disease tourist inflow in the country has gone down by four per cent and industry expects an over all fall of 20 per cent.

A bail out package for Air India has been in offing since the past eight months but is yet to come , while the airline bleeds away.

“We were expecting the bail out package soon but with ongoing elections the issue seems to have taken a backseat,” the official said.

According to the official the airline would need the fund infusion for integrating the ticketing systems of erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India and also to fund the its aircraft acquisition.

The airline has ordered 111 aircraft worth Rs 44,000 crore which would be delivered over a three-year period. Forty-five planes have already joined the fleet.

Air India’s losses have gone up from Rs 700 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 2,226 crore in 2007-08 and it is likely that they would go up further to Rs 3,000 crore in 2009-10.

Air India has not only seen a 16 per cent dip in its international operations and its share has also depleted by nearly 30 per cent on the domestic sector.

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