In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani said that prospective buyers of the state-run carrier will "get an airline with a massive reach". Comments from the top bureaucrat come within two months after the government said the airline will have to shut shop if not privatized. "Someone who buys Air India will get an airline with a massive reach, an airline which is a very big brand... I say It is the biggest brand of India and everyone in the world knows about Air India," Mr Lohani said. Last year, the government failed to attract any bidders when it tried to sell a 76 per cent stake in the ailing carrier.
Calling Air India a viable option for a buyer, Mr Lohani said, "Since April 1, 2019 till now we have either launched or announced 12 new international flights that is a big achievement... even for a constrained airline like Air India."
He also emphasized on the position of the airline in terms of international travel, adding that 65-70 per cent of its revenue comes from international operations.
We are the country's biggest international airline. As far as international travel is concerned our market shares is about 18 per cent, we fly direct flights to 43 destinations we have a lot of strength because we have got a very vast expanse internationally and domestically also Air India flies to 80 destinations, Mr Lohani said.
Mr Lohani explained that huge debt pile accumulated by Air India over time has resulted in it running into loss year after year.
"We are running into loss year after year because we have got a huge debt which we can't service and market share has come down because we are not adding aircraft to our fleet," Mr Lohani said.
Mr Lohani also dismissed reports that more than 1,000 pilots have quit the airline. He said that in last one year 72 pilots have quit and currently the airline has a total 1,700-1,800 pilots.