Channel NewsAsia

Air India pares loss but no privatisation on horizon

State-run carrier Air India has pared its losses thanks to a better all-round performance, but the new right-wing government has no plans to privatise the flagship airline, a statement said.

NEW DELHI: State-run carrier Air India has pared its losses thanks to a better all-round performance, but the new right-wing government has no plans to privatise the flagship airline, a statement said.

Air India, once the country's monopoly airline, now holds just 20 per cent of the passenger market as once-loyal travellers fly nimbler private-sector rivals in the midst of cut-throat price wars.

Air India's net loss narrowed to 53.8 billion rupees ($894 million) in the financial year to March 31, from a loss of 54.9 billion rupees a year earlier, junior civil aviation minister G M Siddeswara told parliament in a statement late on Tuesday.

Siddeswara added that there were no plans to sell off Air India "under consideration", despite proposals by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to increase privatisation revenues generally to cut a yawning fiscal deficit.

Analysts have long cited Air India as a problem for the government which is dependent on taxpayer funds.

Showing a strong improvement, the airline's operating loss narrowed to 21.20 billion rupees from 38 billion rupees in 2012-13 and 51.40 billion rupees in 2011-2012.

The operating result gives the clearest guide to performance, showing operating expenses against sales revenue, stripping out one-off income or spending.

All but one of India's main half-dozen carriers, Indigo, are losing money, smarting from fare rivalry, high fuel costs and hefty debts.

The government in 2012 gave the carrier a $5.85-billion bailout package.

Air India, which hasn't reported an annual profit since 2007, has "shown improvement in its financial parameters" since the government bailout, the minister said.

Air India has been keen to improve its reputation after a string of recent technical glitches, including last weekend when an India-bound flight from New Jersey in the US was forced to return when an engine caught fire.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia