Govt plans brand overhaul to revive debt-laden Air India

A four-pronged strategy is reportedly on the anvil to revive the state-owned Air India, complete with a brand overhaul and motivation for the workforce.

After no takers came forward to rescue the ‘Maharaja’ in distress, the government is now planning to spruce up the airlines on its own. A four-pronged strategy is reportedly on the anvil to revive the state-owned Air India, complete with a brand overhaul and ways to motivate the workforce, in order to make it globally competitive.

The action plan includes a financial package, a new strategy centred on the carrier’s revamped premium class called the Maharajah Direct, a list of organisational and governance reforms and ways to motivate the workforce, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha told the Economic Times. The national carrier is carrying a debt of over Rs 55,000 crore.

Under the financial package, the government has already announced to transfer loans to the tune of Rs 29,000 crore from Air India’s balance to cut its interest burden by Rs 2,700 crore from Rs 4,400 crore per year. The financial package also has provisions for a fresh equity component. The government will seek parliamentary approval in this regard during the ongoing Winter Session, the report said.

With Maharajah Direct, the government is planning to establish Air India as the county’s global long-haul carrier supported by a big domestic network. The initiative, unveiled in June, aims to revamp the first class and business class in its fleet of Boeing aircraft flying to international destinations with new uniforms for the crew and cuisine members to woo high-end travellers and increase the occupancy from 60 per cent to over 80 per cent.

The plan is to have “long-haul planes, slots and trained people to run the airline because we have removed the non-core assets from Air India and are left with only the core assets,” Sinha told the daily.

The government is also planning to rope in managerial professionals to run Air India. The report said the aviation ministry is seeking approval from the Department of Public Enterprise and the finance ministry to appoint people from outside for managerial roles in the carrier.

The recent revival initiatives come after the government failed to sell its stake in the debt-laden airline in the middle of this year. Despite several attempts, no one agreed to take the reins of Air India, as many probable bidders did not find the stipulations set by the government to their taste. While the Centre might try to divest its stake in Air India at a later date, that course of action seems to have been put on the backburner for now.

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