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With Air India grappling with financial crisis, the Supreme Court has rapped the government for giving “profitable routes” to private carriers and asked it to plan a turnaround in the national carrier saying it “faces extinction” if things continued like this.

“Why many lucrative routes have been given to private carriers,” a bench comprising justices Vikramjit Sen and Kurian Joseph observed while expressing concern over Air India taking a beating against private airways, post merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.

The bench, which wanted the Civil Aviation Ministry to think over the various issues plaguing the national carrier, also said other area of concern was the priority given to private airlines with Air India aircraft being asked to hover around during the peak landing hours causing huge loss of money on fuel.

“A situation has reached where after travelling in private airlines, when one boards Air India, he thinks why have I taken this flight. The situation is really, really bad, we are sorry to say. The financial loss is already being talked about since long, passenger dissatisfaction is a known fact too.

“Strangely, Air India is focusing on money-losing routes while many profitable routes have been given to the private airlines. Please think of how a turnaround can be brought about,” the bench said, adding, “if things continue like this the airline faces extinction.”

The remarks were made during the hearing of the cross-appeals filed by Air India Management and workers union against the order of the Bombay High Court which dealt with various contentious issues arising out of the Justice Dharmadhikari report on the merger of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India.

Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi was appearing for the Centre and Air India.

The high court had dealt with the issues of 75 per cent of wages and salary for the workers and had asked the unions to approach the Central Government Industrial Tribunal regarding lowering of salary allowances following the merger.

The high court had on January 27 declined to stay the implementation of the Dharmadhikari report on the merger of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India.


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