New Delhi: It's truly a momentous occasion in Indian aviation history. It is the making of history in 'New India'.
"Welcome Back, Air India," tweeted an emotional Tata Sons Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata on Friday, Oct 8, and also posted a photograph of the company's former chairman JRD Tata getting down from an Air India flight, minutes decades back.
For the Modi government, the decision would thus go down the memory lane as a major 'big ticket reform'.
The 'Maharaja' now returns to the Tatas nearly 70 years (precisely 68 years) after its nationalisation in 1953. Air India was floated by JRD and belonged to Tatas.
The homecoming of Maharaja – who has been sick – but was India's national carrier would cost Tata Sons Rs 18,000 crore.
"On an emotional note, Air India, under the leadership of Mr JRD Tata had, at one time, gained the reputation of being one of the most prestigious Airlines in the world. Tatas will have the opportunity of regaining the image and reputation enjoyed in earlier years. MR JRD Tata would have been overjoyed if he was in our midst today," Ratan Tata wrote.
The running of the show would be a much more challenging part of the new role. The 'winning bid' was much easier.
Official sources say – The Maharaja has been reeling under a massive debt that stands close to Rs 70,000 crore. Air India at present understandably loses Rs 20 crore per day.
But the pact has certain conditions too.
Tata Sons will have to retain all current employees of Air India for one year, the central government said. From the second year, Air India employees will have to be offered a VRS. Further, gratuity benefits and PF benefits will be applicable.
The reserve price set by the government for Air India was Rs 12,906 crore, DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey said.
BJP leaders were enthusiastic on their part.
"DIPAM Secretary, Mr Tuhin Kanta Pandey says taxpayers have put in Rs 110,276 crores into AirIndia since 2009 to fund losses. Just imagine what PM Modi has saved for India," tweeted BJP national Yuva Morcha President Tejasvi Surya.
Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia tweeted: "Air India's return to
Tata Companies marks a new dawn for the airline! My best wishes to the new management."
The Tata Group has evinced interest in acquiring the airline in the past, including in 2001 along with Singapore Airlines, but the bid was withdrawn.
Thus, Ratan Tata's statement said – "We also need to recognise and thank the government for its recent policy of opening select industries to the private sector."
Air India has been in losses ever since its merger with domestic operator Indian Airlines in 2007.
Air India was founded by the Tata Group in 1932 and was nationalised in 1953 during the stint of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Tata Sons will pay Rs 18,000 crore for the Maharaja, outbidding a consortium led by SpiceJet's Ajay Singh, who had bid Rs 15,100 crore. The transaction is expected to be close by the end of December this year.
The national carrier has at present 127 aircraft, controlling 50.64 per cent of the International market share. Tatas also owns about 84% stake in AirAsia India and 51% in Vistara. Air India now serves 42 international destinations.