With the future of the country’s national carrier already under threat, the recent COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus pandemic has made the situation for Air India even worse. Does this mean that the days for India’s ‘Maharaja of the Skies’ are now numbered?
According to the Centre for Aviation (CAPA), the recent COVID-19 Novel coronavirus pandemic may well lead to the bankruptcy of most of the airlines around the world by the end of May 2020. The Sydney-based consultancy has urged the central governments to coordinate with each other to mitigate the risks. Following the coronavirus virus outbreak, Air India has decided to suspend air services to the UK and Europe. Such a situation may well be a final nail in the coffin as far as the future of India’s ‘Maharaja of the Skies’ is considered.
Highlights! Will Air India ever recover from the coronavirus pandemic?
- The BJP government has been long planning to privatize India’s national carrier.
- The recent coronavirus outbreak makes it almost impossible for Air India to get a buyer.
- Closure of domestic operations might well draw curtains on Maharaja’s future.
With No Buyer, Air India Might Not Fly Any More
Air India was already under a debt of INR 31,000 crore. Out of this, INR 29,000 crore was borne by the government. The BJP government has been waiting to get rid of the airline. Its plan to sell off 76% of the stake had earlier failed.
The government has been long planning to privatize Air India and get rid of the debts. It had earlier said that the national carrier will have to shut shop if the government’s bid to sell the debt-ridden airline fails.
“If we don’t privatize Air India, where will we get the money to operate it?” – Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on the privatization of Air India
Earlier reports had suggested that Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries, as well as an Indigo-Etihad joint venture, may bail out Air India. But nothing concrete arose from those interests.
Improbable To Find A Buyer Till Coronavirus Stays
With the airline industry already suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone lending out a helping hand to Air India seems unlikely at the moment. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had earlier confirmed that the government was going to initiate a complete sale of Air India by March 2020.
The current pandemic has led to the closures of airlines, airports and any travels across borders. Most of the airlines are running into heavy loss. Amid this crisis, Air India finding a buyer seems improbable.
International Operations Already Closed, Domestic Next?
Airlines across the world are fast running out of cash due to reduced domestic and global travel. A number of international carriers have either closed their operations or are flying half-occupied. The International Air Transport Association said that the majority of carriers face running out of money within two months. This is because of the sudden halt in international flights by governments attempting to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Air India itself has cancelled its services to the UK and Europe. And with the number of coronavirus cases in India increasing each day, it won’t be long before the domestic operations also take a hit.
Will Maharaja Ever Fly Again?
With its international operations already suffering, if the domestic operations in the country also take a hit, Air India will most certainly collapse like a pack of cards.
The current scenario has only made the situation worse for the national carrier. With the airline industry already suffering due to COVID-19, the days for Air India look numbered.