The latest RTI reply reveals Air India is owed Rs 1,146 crores for VIP travel.
Air India, the national carrier, is quite an albatross around the government’s neck. Exploiting the airline for travel may, however, have been tuned into a fine art by dignitaries, politicians and bureaucrats. There are no intending buyers or strategic investors for the airline, which has run up mountainous debt in excess of Rs 50,000 crores, but the government seems to treat it as s in-house transporter for which no payment is needed.
The latest RTI reply reveals Air India is owed Rs 1,146 crores for VIP travel. There are pending payments dating back 12 years: the CAG flagged the issue two years back. The sheer callousness in dealing with a broken wing is evident. A part of the dues is over evacuation flights, in which Air India has played a praiseworthy role, drawing the admiration of many countries during the Yemen crisis.
The professionalism of those who operate AI aircraft is also a source of eternal pride. The pilots of an AI flight on September far exceeded even those standards with a landing at Newark airport that should be part of aviation folklore.
With 370 passengers aboard, all systems malfunctioning, the fuel load low after a long flight and visibility less than 100 metres over New York’s JFK Airport in the most dreaded aviation circumstances, the brave pilots chose to fly on to New Jersey for a visual landing. The American ATC official’s words — "I only wish I could do more for you" — may have been ringing in their ears as they landed without any passenger even knowing the odds they had to overcome. Nothing exemplifies AI’s spirit better than the brave Dreamliner pilots on Flight AI-101.