Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ahead of privatization, Air India eyes bumper staff buyout

New Delhi: Air India is drawing up a proposal to offer voluntary buyouts to just over a third of its 40,000 employees, two government officials said, in what would be one of the largest such offers in India's state sector, as the airline slashes costs ahead of a 2018 sale.

The state-owned airline has also put fleet expansion on hold, scrapping a proposal to lease eight Boeing (BA.N) 787 wide-body aircraft, said one of the officials, a senior Air India employee who requested anonymity as the plans are not public. Air India's board approved that proposal in April but nothing further had been done.

"Nothing has been finalised but our aim is to make the strategic sale as simple as we can," the company official said, adding that any fresh investment would also be put on hold.

Air India spokesman Dhananjay Kumar said the company had not offered employees voluntary buyouts.

India's flag carrier is on the block after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet last month approved plans to privatize the loss-making airline by selling part or all of the company and ending decades of state support.

Founded in the 1930s and known to generations of Indians for its Maharajah mascot, Air India has a complex fleet, too many staff relative to rivals and $8.5 billion in debt. Since 2012, New Delhi has injected $3.6 billion to keep it afloat.
18/07/17 Rupam Jain/Reuters

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