Fuel supplies halted to debt-ridden Air India

India's national flag carrier owes three state-run oil firms more than $630 million

Afp August 23, 2019

MUMBAI: Air India called on Friday for government help after oil companies stopped supplying the debt-ridden national flag carrier with jet fuel at six domestic airports due to late payment of dues.

"We have huge outstanding debts and are awaiting equity support from the government to maintain current operational levels," Dhananjay Kumar, spokesperson of Air India said.

Air India owes three state-run oil firms more than INR45 billion ($630 million), Indian news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) reported on Friday.

Oil firms suspended fuel supplies to Air India aircraft at six Indian cities -- Pune, Ranchi, Patna, Mohali, Kochi and Vishakhapatnam on Thursday, an official confirmed.

The airline was continuing to fly from these six locations by looking at alternative routes and filling up on fuel elsewhere, the spokesperson said.

He added that despite the firm's debts, it was "performing well operationally" and would make a profit in the next quarter.

The Indian government in 2018 had shelved plans to sell a 76 per cent stake in Air India after failing to attract any bidders.

The airline, founded in 1932, was once the country's monopoly airline, known affectionately as the "Maharaja of the skies".

But it has been haemorrhaging money for years and it has lost market share to low-cost rivals in one of the world's fastest-growing airline markets.

Successive governments had spent billions of dollars to keep it flying before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet last year gave the go-ahead for a sell-off.

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