In light of the privatisation of the national carrier Air India, the central government has withdrawn a mandate that required all government employees to travel with the carrier. Earlier, flying by Air India was mandated as the government endeavoured to secure revenue for the carrier. However, government employees will now be free to book their travel with any airline in the country.
Tuhin Kanta Pandey, Secretary of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, had stated last week that “the government is not mandating travel by any particular airline, going forward, after handing over Air India because there won’t be any state-owned airline,” further adding that the government will not have tie-ups with any airline moving ahead.
Moreover, Air India will stop offering government officials credit facilities and hereafter require them to make purchases of tickets with the use of cash. The Finance Ministry has therefore urged all ministries to clear their dues with Air India in the stipulated time.
Government officials will no longer be obliged to ask for permission to travel with a different airline. However, a circular of the Lok Sabha secretariat released on November 5 has mandated them to reserve their air tickets through the services provided by one of three public sector companies if they are purchasing tickets for a different airline.
The three public sector agencies mentioned in the Lok Sabha circular comprise Balmer Lawrie, Ashoka Travels and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). Balmar Lawrie & Co Ltd. is a government corporation under the ownership of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. Meanwhile, IRCTC provides ticketing, catering, and tourism services for the Indian Railways.
The central government is gearing up to hand over Air India to Tata Sons by the end of December. Tata Sons-backed Talace had won the bid to buy out the government’s shareholding in the loss-making airline last month, acquiring Air India for Rs 18,000 crore, which comprised a retaining debt of Rs 15,300 crore of the national carrier, and a cash component of Rs 2,700 crore.