A Parliamentary panel today raised concerns over Air India’s decision to stop serving non-vegetarian food to economy class passengers on domestic flights and would seek an explanation from the airline on the measure. The matter was discussed at the meeting of the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture today. “The issue of Air India deciding not to serve non-vegetarian food for economy class passengers on its domestic flights was raised during the meeting today,” panel member and Congress leader K C Venugopal said.
“The panel will seek an explanation from Air India as to on what basis such a decision was taken,” he told PTI after the meeting. Venugopal had also served as minister of state for civil aviation in the previous UPA regime. As part of cost cutting measures, loss-making Air India has stopped serving non-vegetarian food to passengers travelling in the economy class on its domestic flights. The panel which was also to discuss the Air India disinvestment matter today did not take up the issue as government officials concerned did not turn up.
Senior officials from civil aviation and finance ministries as well as from the airline were asked by the panel to explain the decision to sell stake in Air India. Two panel members said the officials of the ministries informed that they would not be able to attend the meeting. One of the members said the panel would now call the officials for explanation on the Air India disinvestment decision next week, possibly on July 19. The 31-member panel is headed by Trinamool Congress member Mukul Roy and has 21 MPs from the Lok Sabha. The members include those from the Congress, the BJP, the BJD, the SP, the CPI (M) and the TDP.
On June 28, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its in-principle approval for considering strategic disinvestment of Air India and five of its subsidiaries. A group of ministers, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, would be looking into various aspects of Air India. It would look into the treatment of unsustainable debts of the national carrier, hiving off certain assets to a shell company and de-merger and strategic disinvestment of three profit-making subsidiaries, among others.
Air India, which has a debt burden of more than Rs 52,000 crore, is staying afloat on taxpayers’ money. The previous UPA government had extended bailout package worth little over Rs 30,000 crore to the national carrier for a ten-year period starting from 2012.