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Mon 14 Oct 2019 02:01 PM

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Air India may fly into turbulence over privatisation, fuel supply issues

Air India operates about 60-65 daily flights to and from the Middle East

Air India may fly into turbulence over privatisation, fuel supply issues

India’s national carrier Air India is facing major head winds, with its employee unions on a war path over privatisation of the airline and over 100 pilots reportedly resigning in recent weeks due to delay in salary hike and promotion.

Oil marketing companies have also threatened the airline to discontinue fuel supply over huge payment dues.

Official sources told Arabian Business that Air India management has convened an urgent meeting with representatives of all Air India unions on Monday to sort out various issues in the run up to the proposed privatisaton of the carrier.

The Air India unions are demanding an urgent meeting with the Indian finance and civil aviation ministries to take up their opposition to the proposed privatisation plan.

“We will raise our demand for an immediate meeting with the finance and civil aviation ministry officials at today’s meeting also,” president of a leading AI union, who wished anonymity, told Arabian Business.

“All the unions of Air India have come under one roof to oppose the government’s move to privatise the airline,” V A George, secretary, Aviation Industry Employees Guild, added.

“This time, the government has not spoken to the unions about the plan to privatise Air India. Everything is under wraps and done in a totally non-transparent manner,” George said.

“Employees are frightened, especially after seeing what happened to other airlines like Jet Airways,” he added.

George said the unions will resort to all options – organising agitations and going to court – to oppose the privatisation move.

Any disruptions in the operations of Air India will impact thousands of passengers – both domestic and international sectors, including the Middle East sector.

Air India operates about 60-65 daily flights to and from the Middle East.

Air India Express operates about 98 flights both ways in the Middle East sector. A senior executive of Air India Express told Arabian Business that the on-going employee or fuel supply related issues will not affect its operations. 

Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar did not respond to queries from Arabian Business.

Air India currently has about 35,000 employees out of which only about 11,000 are permanent employees. The rest are contract employees.

Official sources in Air India said about 110 pilots – both commanders and co-pilots – have resigned from the airline in recent weeks due to long delay in salary hike and promotion.

According to AI sources, the airline owes about $183 million in salary arrears to its employees. Of this, about $99 million is salary arrears due to pilots.

A Group of Ministers at the federal Indian government, led by home minister Amit Shah is expected to meet soon to take a final call on government’s move to disinvest its stake in Air India.

India’s conglomerate Tata group is among some of the names being mentioned in the aviation industry circles as probable bidders for Air India.

State-owned oil marketing companies have also threatened the airline with suspension on fuel supply at 6 major airports including Delhi and Mumbai from 18th of this month, if the carrier fails to meet its commitments on clearance of payment arrears.

Air India, however, issued a statement on Sunday, saying that the fuel payment issues are being sorted out and will be resolved soon with the OMCs.

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