Why are aircraft worth Rs 25,000 crore lying idle? Pilots' association questions 'sorry' state of Air India

Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) has alleged that overall, almost 23 per cent of Air India's fleet is grounded for lack of spares.

Why are aircraft worth Rs 25,000 crore lying idle? Pilots' association questions 'sorry' state of Air India

NEW DELHI: Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) has written to Air India officials raising concerns about the lack of maintenance of aircraft operated by the airline. In a letter highlighting the concerns, the pilots' association wrote that 40 per cent of the Airbus A321 fleet is grounded at various stations for lack of spares. 

"The A319 aircraft is the workhorse of the domestic network operating on high-density routes and has the maximum seating capacity. Such a high percentage of this aircraft type being grounded is criminal at the very least. Considering the high seating capacity, there is a significant loss of revenue happening on a daily basis," the letter states. It also states that out of the 22 Airbus A319 aircraft in the fleet, 4 are not available for operation. 

Calling the situation on the Boeing 777 fleet 'desperate', the pilots' association noted that out of the 15 Boeing 777-300 aircraft, 5 are in the hangar. 

The letter alleges that overall, almost 23 per cent of Air India's fleet is grounded for lack of spares. "To put this into perspective, aircraft worth approximately 3.6 billion USD or approximately Rs 25,000 crore are lying idle in the hangar," the letter says.

Lashing out at the management, the pilots asked if there is a "reason why these aircraft continue to remain grounded? Is our management unable to prioritize expenditure?"

The letter comes at a time when the government is working on ways to improve the performance of Air India. Union minister Jayant Sinha had recently reiterated that the government remains committed to the disinvestment of Air India but has no plan to exit the national carrier altogether.

The proposed stake sale in the debt-laden airline had failed to take off as it did not receive any Expression of Interest (EoI) from potential bidders when the deadline ended on May 30.

As per its audited accounts, the airline's total cumulative losses stood at Rs 47,145.62 crore in financial year 2016-17. According to Sinha, Air India has been making losses since its merger with Indian Airlines in 2007.

High interest burden, increase in competition, high airport user charges, adverse impact of exchange rate variation and liberalised bilaterals to foreign carriers leading to excess capacity in the market are among the major reasons for the losses, he said. 

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