Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines maintain an “open mind” on the issue of the sale of Air India (AI) and will evaluate any potential business case therein, Vistara CEO Leslie Thng said.
The two entities together run the Vistara airline as a joint venture in India. The government has given its in-principle approval for disinvestment of Air India that has a debt of nearly Rs 52,000 crore. An inter-ministerial group has been constituted to work out the modalities for the stake sale.
“The two promoters, Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, keep an open mind, meaning that they will evaluate if there is a business case,” Thng told reporters, though he did not clarify if the two entities will bid for the state-run airline jointly. He added that at the moment the priority for the two promoters is Vistara’s international foray and fleet expansion. “At this point, the focus and priority for both the promoters is to scale up on Vistara that is why we are seriously committed to expanding beyond the 22 aircraft for which we have a firm order. We are also planning to expand into international markets,” Thng said. The airline says it expects to be able to fly overseas in the 2nd half of 2018, though it will try to do so sooner than that. The airline currently has a fleet size of 17 aircraft and plans to get its 20th aircraft by March, which will make it eligible to fly overseas.
As per government norms an airline must have a fleet size of atleast 20 aircraft before it can operate international flights. The airline plans to induct its 21st aircraft in May. “Technically, with our 21st aircraft in May we should be able to go international then. But we need to have some time to prepare ourselves for regulators, then we are looking at second half of 2018. If all things go on well then we will try to bring it forward, if possible,” Thng added. Tata Sons Limited executive chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran had last October told a TV channel that the group will look into the Air India disinvestment. “We will definitely look at it. We still don’t have all the details. Every business proposal will be very seriously looked at and we will look at that (Air India). Definitely. But currently we don’t have the data.”