Indian government tries to sell national carrier Air India

Photo: Venkat Mangudi

The government of India is again making an attempt to find a buyer for financially struggling national carrier Air India.

It first tried to sell the government-owned airline two years ago, but did not manage to attract bidders.

On Monday, domestic investors were invited to make bids for Air India, this time with less strict conditions. The government is looking to sell all 100 percent it holds in the carrier, as well as its subsidiaries, to a potential buyer.

Terms state that the company must remain in India, therefore ruling out foreign investors in the process.

1932-founded Air India currently has billions of dollars in debt. It is estimated to be one of the most loss-making airlines in the world. The holding company Air India Limited made more than US $1.2 billion in losses in the 2018-2019 financial year.

The national airline operates more than 120 aircraft in its fleet, using Airbus A320 family airplanes for mostly domestic short and medium distance flights, and Boeing 747, 777 and 787 on international long haul routes. Low-cost subsidiary Air India Express flies 25 Boeing 737-800. Furthermore, a number of ATR turboprop aircraft are operated by another subsidiary, Alliance Air, under the Air India Regional brand. Combined, the airlines have more than 16,000 employees.

In April 2019, competitor Jet Airways, at the time India’s oldest privately-owned airline, ceased operations after failing to secure emergency funding.