The government on Monday brought in a draft civil aviation policy, recommending listing of state-run Airports Authority of India and helicopter operator Pawan Hans Helicopter Limited (PHHL) on stock exchanges and steps to beef up Air India operations.
Releasing the draft policy, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, said that an expert committee would be set up to draw a future roadmap for Air India, “which will help it achieve its full potential”.
“If a policy existed (during the UPA rule), it was opaque. We want to develop a transparent policy because opaqueness leads itself to allegations. This government wants to work in a transparent manner,” Raju said. He also hinted at an eventual divestment of Air India, saying there were several suggestions made by different sections, including those in favour and those against its privatisation.
“Some say that privatisation is a solution while others feel it should remain a public entity. Another section says the airline should be managed professionally by professional bodies. All these suggestions have emerged. It is in the country’s interest that it cruises smoothly. We don’t want to open a Pandora’s box. We will have to take a conscious decision as it is a delicate matter.”
The draft policy, now available in the public domain for greater participation from stakeholders, proposes enhancing regional air connectivity, develop six major metro airports as international travel and transit hubs, create more airports through the public-private partnership (PPP) mode, rationalise jet fuel cost, promote air cargo, maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) services and helicopter operations apart from stressing on improving passenger facilitation services.
The minister said he was hopeful that the draft policy would be finalised by January next year. “It is essential to ensure that Air India, our national carrier, achieves its full potential. An expert committee will be constituted to develop a future roadmap for Air India. AAI will be corporatised, followed by listings in the stock exchanges, in order to improve efficiency and transparency. PHHL will be listed in the stock exchanges with the same objective,” says the new draft policy. A senior official, however, said that no time frame has been fixed on when the two entities will be listed or what percentage of the government holding will be divested.
“It will be easier to list PHHL first — within the next six months — as it is already a registered company…,” the official said. Set up in 1985, PHHL is currently the largest helicopter operator in Asia with a fleet of 47 choppers.