No bailout for private airlines, says government


New Delhi : A day after private airlines called off their Aug 18 strike, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel Monday ruled out any kind of bailout for them or for the state-owned carrier Air India.

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“There is no question of a financial bailout for private airlines. We are not even bailing out Air India, which is owned by the government,” Patel told reporters here.

“But we will try to help them (the carriers), in every possible way as it is an important sector,” the minister stated, emphasising that the government understood the problems faced by the aviation industry.

Though the private carriers withdrew their earlier decision to suspend operations Aug 18, they are not quite happy with the government’s response.

“Everybody should know how the aviation industry is going through. It is not a question of help or any bailout package we want from the government. The industry cannot run without sustained profitability,” Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal told a news channel.

Faced with stern action by the government and all-round resentment and anguish expressed by air travellers, private carriers late Sunday spiked their proposal to suspend domestic operations.

In a statement issued in Mumbai, the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), a representative body of private carriers, said its secretary general Anil Baijal was able to “impress upon” the members to hold back their decision.

“In view of the agitated public sentiment and potential inconvenience to thousands of passengers on the one hand and government’s willingness to enter into dialogue on the other, Anil Baijal, the secretary general of the FIA, has been able to impress upon the private airlines to put on hold their decision to suspend flights on Aug 18,” said the statement.

“The secretary general of the FIA hopes that constructive dialogue with the government will lead to redressal of the problems faced by the aviation industry,” it added.

Among the various demands of the carriers were cuts in sales tax on aviation fuel and on airport charges – which they say have ballooned since they started operations. Apart from their accumulated losses of over $2 billion, the private carriers owe nearly $500 million as fuel dues to oil companies.