Govt should not be running airports and airlines; hopeful of privatising AI in 2020: Hardeep Puri

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The government should not be running airports and airlines, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Sunday, adding that he hopes to privatise Air India during 2020.

His remarks come at a time when the Kerala government has opposed the Union Cabinet’s approval on August 19 to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram airport to Adani Enterprises under the public-private partnership (PPP) model for a period of 50 years.

Addressing a virtual meet on Namo app, Puri said, “I can tell you from my heart the government should not be running airports and the government should not be running airlines.” The Centre-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) owns and manages more than 100 airports, including the one in Kerala’s capital city. On Air India’s privatisation, Puri said, “As a going concern, one that is attractive to potential bidders, we should privatise it (Air India). And I am hopeful that we will be able to complete that privatisation process during this year.”

Last Tuesday, the Central government extended by two months the deadline for placing bids for Air India till October 30 as the Covid-19 fallout has disrupted economic activity globally. The process of stake sale in the national carrier was initiated on January 27. This is the fourth extension given by the government for putting in bids. “If the government runs an airport or an airline, then they have to follow the government rules like L1 and L2, and that is not how commercial entities can run,” Puri said.

When the government issues a tender, the lowest bidder deemed as L1 is the winner.

Puri said he expects that the domestic air traffic would reach pre-Covid levels by the end of this year. D

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