Air India Has Dues of over Rs 822 Crore Towards VVIP Charter Flights: RTI

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New Delhi: Cash-strapped Air India, which is being disinvested by the government, has outstanding dues of over Rs 822 crore towards VVIP charter flights, according to latest data provided by the national carrier to an RTI response.

In its RTI response provided on Wednesday to Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), who sought to know the latest data on outstanding bills of Air India, the carrier said as on November 30, 2019, Rs 822 crore were pending towards VVIP charter flights.

It also said an additional Rs 9.67 crore towards evacuation operations and Rs 12.65 crore towards ferrying foreign dignitaries were also pending.

Under VVIP charter flights, Air India provides its aircraft to ferry– the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister– for which the bills are paid by the ministries.

If outstanding bills of VVIP charter flights were not enough, the carrier had also accrued bills of Rs 526.14 crore towards tickets taken on credit by government officials as on March 31, 2019, according to the reply.

Out of Rs 526.14 crore, Rs 236.16 crore were pending for over three years, Air India said in its response.

The airlines also said provisioned Rs 281.82 crore as an accounting charge in its account books for “probable non-recovery”.

Air India had stopped the practice of issuing tickets on credit to government agencies for the travel of their officials in December last year because of accruing pending bills.

In the RTI response, the airlines has provided a list of agencies against which bills were pending. These include the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax, Intelligence Bureau, CRPF, Department of Posts, Reserve Bank of India among others.

Batra had sought “updated (till the date of response), completed and detailed information (including dates and invoices)” on total pending dues towards VVIP charter flights and amounts owed by different public authorities towards Air India among other details.

The information under the RTI Act is defined as any record in any form held by or under the control of public authority which has to be furnished to an applicant within 30 days subject to exemptions under the law.

According to a response provided by the Civil Aviation ministry on December 5, 2019, a net loss of Rs 8,556.35 crore (provisional) was reported by Air India. The total debt of the airlines is pegged at around Rs 60,000 crore.

On Wednesday, the ministry said reasons for losses reported by Air India were –high interest burden, increase in competition especially from low cost carriers, adverse impact of exchange rate variation due to weakening of the Indian Rupee, and high operating costs.

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