Sending out a stern message to Air India staff, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju has said “something is lagging” when it comes to commitment shown by them compared with rival airlines.
While acknowledging that Air India, which turned operationally profitable last fiscal, has “done better”, the minister emphasised on the need to ensure more cohesiveness at the national carrier. The national carrier, staying afloat on a bailout package extended by the central government, is making efforts to improve its financial position, including by way of cost optimisation measures, capacity addition and introduction of new flights.
Raju, who has been generally supportive of Air India which has often drawn flak from various quarters, is of the view that the carrier has definitely done better but there is always scope for improvement. “The cohesiveness still has to be built in (at Air India)… you have the advantage of different types of airlines, competition is there,” Raju told PTI in an interview. “Commitment shown by some of their staff and the commitment shown by Air India staff, there is still something lagging.” Asked whether such a situation arises out of complacency in certain quarters that there is job security at Air India, the minister said jobs are assured only as long as the institution exists.
It is a good airline and has served the country well, he noted, but “see everywhere job is assured if that institution is there. If the institution goes, what happens to your job?” Air India still has a debt burden of around Rs 44,000 crore even as it posted an operating profit of Rs 105 crore in the last financial year — for the first time in a decade. The operational profit came mainly on the back of lower fuel cost and higher passenger numbers.
“Everyone will wish them well, it is a good airline, it served the country well, its financial books are bad and it needs to improve on. They have to develop strategies. They are on the right track and we wish them a happy, good, meaningful year ahead,” the minister said. The national airline is surviving on a Rs 30,000-crore bailout extended by the government and it runs till 2020-21.