The Centre will preserve Air India (AI) as a brand and continue all its operations, though there have been uncertainties about the airline in the recent past, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday. "Air India as a brand built by pilots, crew, commandant will be retained," said Puri.
In the Preliminary Information Memorandum issued a few weeks ago for Air India's stake sale, the government had stated that the brand name would have to keep as it is by the future owner.
Puri was speaking here at an event held to distribute the "Letters of Appreciation" issued by Prime Minister to the staff of Air India who conducted evacuation operation of the stranded Indians from the Wuhan city.
Speaking on its disinvestment, Puri said that the government will negotiate with the new buyer about a lock-in period for the existing Air India employees, adding that post that period employees can continue with the airline or switch to other airlines as they will have the option. He added that the government is confident of a very smooth transition.
The fact that Air India has been facing financial challenges is not something that is unknown, he added. "I don't think anyone can run an airline without the people that actually make it. Somebody asks what will happen to the staff. The staff will be required by whoever will be the new entity managing or owning it. There has been no recruitment for how many years. There is no surplus staff," he said.
"Don't ever be under the impression that this time around, there will be any problems (in disinvestment). There will not be. The amount of interest I am seeing in the acquisition and the quarters from where I am seeing it, I am reassured," he added.
Various employee unions of Air India in the last few months have expressed uncertainty about their future as the government has moved ahead with the stake sale plan.
The government expects to complete the sale of Air India in the first half of the next fiscal, according to the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM).