Air India refuses to make losses from freebies public

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NEW DELHI – The cash-strapped Air India may be looking for a bailout from tax payers’ money but is not ready to make public the details about free travel benefits it extends to various individuals and

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NEW DELHI – The cash-strapped Air India may be looking for a bailout from tax payers’ money but is not ready to make public the details about free travel benefits it extends to various individuals and the expenditure on these freebies.

In an RTI reply, the national carrier has refused to make public names of people who have enjoyed free travel benefits on it and the costs saying it will be detrimental to its commercial interests.

“Disclosure of names of persons to whom such tickets were issued would be detrimental to the commercial interests of the company considering the fierce level of competition that is existing in the Aviation industry,” the loss making national carrier said in an RTI reply.

Air India which has sought a bail-out package worth Rs 10,000 crore from the Government, did not give even the total cumulative losses it had to suffer because of free travel benefits it doled out during last three years.

It also refused to give total number of passengers which availed free tickets during the period citing section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act which exempts disclosure of information which may affect commercial position of an entity.

“Air India like any other airline in the Aviation Industry, issues complimentary tickets in its commercial interest to encourage and promote travel on its flights and to help in image building of the Company,” the reply.

In previous replies under the transparency law, Air India had conceded that its Chairman and Managing Director and his family is entitled for unlimited free tickets.

The airline in March this year had extended the free ticket benefits of first-class travel for retired civil aviation secretaries and free upgrades to their immediate family members.

According to the sources, in a proposal several months ago, the national carrier had sought the infusion of Rs 10,000 crore. The proposal was examined by the Committee of Secretaries, led by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar , and it was decided to provide Rs 2,000 crore to the airline.

The government had also asked the airline to take stringent cost-cutting and revenue-enhancing measures to strengthen its financial bottomline.

Out of Rs 2,000 crore planned to be given to the airline, Rs 800 crore was granted in February.

Recently, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had said in a written reply in the Parliament that among the national carriers, NACIL (the entity formed by the merger of Air India and Indian) had the maximum loss of Rs 5,417 crore.

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