India’s national carrier Air India has been officially handed over to salt-to-steel conglomerate Tata Group, successfully closing the purchase of the debt-ridden airline which was first announced in October last year.
The Tatas, who founded the airline in 1932 before it was taken over by the government in 1953, paid around $2.4 billion (1.7 billion euros) after the terms of the debt were made less onerous for the buyer.
The handing over culminates years-long efforts to sell Air India, which has racked up losses amounting to $9.5 billion and only remained operational due to tax-funded bailouts.
Despite losses of close to $2.6 million every day, according to the government, the airline has attracted buyers for several valuable assets it owns. These include prized slots at London’s Heathrow airport, a fleet of more than 130 planes and thousands of trained pilots and crew.
Tata Group will now control Air India’s domestic and international landing and parking slots, including 900 slots at airports overseas. The aviation ministry estimated the airline’s fixed assets in March last year at more than US$6 billion or 450 billion rupees. More than two-thirds of its revenues come from its international operations, Payload Asia learned.