New Delhi: Air India's losses today total a staggering 7000 crore. That's after the merger between the two government-owned airlines: Air India and Indian Airlines. A trail of applications under the Right to Information Act (RTI) shows careless management for both.
Consider this: Indian Airlines committed to sending 66 senior pilots to the United Kingdom for special training with a company called Storm Aviation. But after 10 pilots completed their training, Indian Airlines pulled out, supposedly to save money. That proved to be an expensive mistake. Storm Aviation took the airline to court. Finally, Indian Airlines paid 2.5 crore as an out-of-court settlement.
A sort of secret that has been uncovered by Subhash Chandra, who wanted to investigate the mismanagement that has contributed to Air India's financial crisis. After he discovered the Storm Aviation disaster, he got another tip-off: "After filing the RTI, I got a message from an insider asking me to file additional RTIs asking about CARIBJET. "This is what he uncovered. In 1995, Air-India leased three passenger aircrafts for several hundred crore from CARIBJET, a foreign company.
The contract was for three years, but within months, the planes developed serious technical issues. Their engines shut down mid-air, their gears were defective. Despite that, it was Air India who had to buy its way out of the contract. For a whopping 130 crore.
"I am aware of this and we had operated the aircraft for two years of the three-year lease period. But it was during the financial crisis, so we decided to end the contract one year early," says Jitendra Bhargava, Executive Director, Air-India.
But despite the financial crisis that executives quote, freebies were being handed out casually.
Last December, another RTI application revealed that Air-India gave nearly 400 free tickets worth crores to four senior members in the 90s. Even today, families of senior officials are entitled to free domestic and international tickets.
It's not just immediate family members who're eligible: parents, siblings, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law also qualify.