Air India suffered a loss of Rs 430 crore in the four-month period when air space was restricted by Pakistan after the Balakot air strikes, Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Replying to supplementaries during Question Hour, the minister said the government was committed to privatisation of the national carrier but is working on a turnaround plan for making it profit-making before it is privatised.
He said that 40 per cent of the operating expenses of the airline is on fuel and other geo-political factors and the closure of air space by Pakistan cost the airline dearly.
Puri also expressed happiness over Pakistan opening its airspace yesterday after four months of closure following the air strikes by India on terror camps in Balakot.
“Air India has suffered a loss of Rs 430 crore in the last four months of air space being restricted by the neighbouring country. We are happy that the air space has opened now,” he told the house.
In response to the privatisation plan, he said “the government has announced that it is committed to privatisation of the airline. But, in addition to this we have a turnaround plan to make the airline profitable.”
“We will be ending this year with an operating loss of Rs 74 crore. But in the next year, the airline is projected to make profit,” he said.
With regard to query about Air India assuring employment to its pilots in case of privatisation, the minister said the airline has pilots who are full-time employees as well as those on fixed term contracts.
“Air India has a total of 1,677 employees, of which 1,108 are permanent employees and 569 are on fixed-term contracts. The process of hiring is an ongoing process and we are in the process of filling up vacancies that were advertised earlier,” he said.
Puri said in June this year, the airline has again advertised for 192 slots, but at any given point of time “we ensure there are no slots which are lying vacant”.
He said the airline hired pilots keeping in view calculations of slots and requirements in the next three to five years.
He said with regard to recent reports of DGCA acting against pilots for violation of rules, the airline regulator is taking strict action as per fresh guidelines issued by him ever since he took over the ministry in the new government.
“I hope the message would have gone to all the airlines that no violations would be tolerated,” he said.
In his written reply, the minister said no new post of chief Pilot has been created in Air India.
“However, in terms of Directorate General of Civil Aviation requirement, there is a Chief Pilot designated for each type of Aircraft in the fleet as per CAP 3100-Air Operator Certification Manual. Further, the post of Executive Director (IT) already exists and currently there is no post of Executive Director (Properties & Facilities) in Air India,” he said in his written reply.