Delhi-Kolkata Air India flight grounded after hoax bomb call

Glen Norman
March 30, 2018

Israel's El Al airline said it appealed Wednesday to the Supreme Court to cancel the authorisation of direct Air India flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv via Saudi airspace.

But the proposal, which calls for bids by May 14, is already generating political opposition and the new owners face turning around an airline that has lost money for the past decade.

In his budget speech for 2018-19, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said: "The government has also initiated the process of strategic disinvestment in 24 central public sector enterprises".

The Indian aviation market's high annual growth and under-utilized bilateral rights are among the plusses being touted by the Indian Government as it seeks a buyer for 76 percent of loss-making flag carrier Air India.

El Al has taken legal action against the Israeli government, its Civil Aviation Administration, Transportation Minister Israel Katz, and Air India, the Israeli airline's spokesperson Ran Rahav was quoted as saying by the paper.

According to reports, a caller informed Air India's call centre of a bomb being allegedly planted in the AI-020 flight, travelling from Delhi to Kolkata.

What one gets with a 76% stake in Air India is an operational fleet of 104 aircraft of which only 69 are owned outright or through financial lease by the airline. "Slots can be utilized to take benefit of India's favorable geographic position in global air travel market and develop hub for worldwide operations". Besides, Air India would divest 100 per cent stake in Air India Express and 50 per cent shareholding in AISATS, an equal joint venture with Singapore-based SATS. The existing debt and liabilities of Air India and Air India Express as on March 31, 2017 would be re-allocated. "India offers 30 per cent lower operating costs in comparison to Europe; so that can clearly do some level of damage going after the Gulf airlines' bread-and-butter revenue", he says. The winning bidder would also need to ensure that substantial ownership and effective control of Air India and Air India Express would continue to be vested in Indian nationals.

A stake in Air India will also help any European airline take the fight back to their West Asian counterparts which have managed to capture a large chunk of West-bound traffic to and from India.

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