Air India under CBI scanner

The CBI investigation on Air India withdrawing from profit making sectors will cover 12 international and domestic routes, including Bengaluru-Bhubhaneswar and Bengaluru-Ahmedabad flights.

This is part of one of the three FIRs the agency filed on Monday against unknown officials of Ministry of Civil Aviation on issues related to the national carrier during the UPA regime when Praful Patel was the Minister.

According to the FIR registered on the orders of Supreme Court, officials abused their position as public servants in conspiracy with other public servants and private domestic and foreign airlines. The Supreme Court order came on a Special Leave Petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).

AI_VTEDF_20112010_1_Small

They made the national carrier “give up profit making routes and profit making timings of Air India in favour of national and international private airlines causing a huge loss of market share”.

The routes from which the Air India withdrew flights included four international routes and eight domestic routes. A senior CBI official said there were specific allegations about these routes.

“It is alleged that on the directions of Ministry of Civil Aviation, issued in conspiracy with private domestic and foreign airlines, Air India withdrew its services from many profit making routes and gave away its routes to private and foreign operators without taking any reciprocal benefits,” the FIR claimed.

These include Bengaluru-Bhubhaneswar and Bengaluru-Ahmedabad flights as well as Ahmedabad-Jaipur, Bhubhaneshwar-Kolkata, Mumbai-Vadodra, Hyderabad-Nagpur, Mumbai-Patna, Mumbai-Pune and Pune-Goa. The international routes were Kolkata-Bangko, Kolkata-Dhaka, Doha-Kochi and Kochi-Kuwait.

“On all these routes, private airlines namely Jet Airways, (now-defunct) Kingfisher Airlines, GoAir, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Paramount Airways etc started operating and made profits,” the FIR said.

Also, it was alleged that on other “lucrative” routes like Mumbai-Dubai, Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Mumbai-Doha, Air India reduced flights and “gave its opponents a major market share”.

According to the FIR, the foreign airlines were given unrestricted entry into India and major routes were given to them without taking any reciprocal benefits for Air India. This came despite warning that such actions could result in heavy loss to Air India’s market share.

It said the private operators were the “biggest beneficiaries of dishonest actions” of officials and this resulted in private airlines “taking all profitable routes and a bigger share of Air India, which has a social responsibility to ply at even non-viable and non-profit making routes, was the biggest loser (sic)”.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 31, 2017)

%d bloggers like this: