Epic rescuer Air India faces precarious financial position

NEW DELHI: Air India may have deployed epic rescue flights from Wuhan to Milan to evacuate Indians stranded in the Covid-19 hit countries, but the pandemic has ensured that its financials reached a precarious position.

Rajiv Bansal, Chairman & Managing Director, Air India, in a note to employees said that the airline has been passing through a critical financial condition from much before the Covid-19 onslaught.

“The crippling effect of the pandemic, especially in the aviation sector, has further plummeted our finances to a precarious position. In spite of this, your airline has left no stone unturned to continue to remain afloat,” Bansal said.

Bansal also applauded the airline’s team for its heroic efforts. “It gives me great pride to acknowledge your selfless contribution towards serving the cause of India and humanity at large during this global pandemic. Each and everyone of you has put in your might — braving the dark clouds of coronavirus to breathe in new life and hope to overcome this gigantic challenge before us,” he said.

“As the airline is currently unable to utilise the fleet to operate commercial flights during the lockdown, it has diversified our operations to engage the aircraft by operating quick turnaround cargo flights.

“Air India is amongst the very few airlines in the world, which is providing hazmat suits and other protective equipment for our crew to equip them to face any covid-related safety concern on board.

“It is due to these precautionary measures that so far, only one of our crew members amongst so many, who have been flying our charter flights all over the world, has tested covid positive. I am relieved to inform you that she has also been discharged after full recovery under the watchful eyes of our medical department,” he said.

As part of government’s Mission Lifeline UDAN scheme, Air India and Alliance Air have over the last two weeks operated over 100 charter flights to ferry medical equipment and other items essential to fight back and contain the spread of the pandemic.

The flights, being operated regularly between the metro hubs of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai to the remote spoke destinations of the Northeast and other far flung areas of the country, have been serving as the lifeline of the nation.

“We are also operating cargo flights between Delhi and Shanghai and to Hong Kong transporting vital medical cargo,” Bansal said.

“Air India had spread its wings to stand by the nation in its hour of crisis, ever since we took off to evacuate Indians stranded at Wuhan, the epicentre of this dreaded disease on 31st January, 2020,” Bansasl said.

The two epic rescue flights to Wuhan were followed by several other flights to Japan, Milan and Rome to bring back countrymen stranded in the affected cities. Air India also operated a number of flights to Jaisalmer and Jodhpur to ferry passengers coming from corona affected Iran for quarantine purposes.

“In spite of constraints, Air India has mobilised all our available resources to operate 18 charter flights ferrying German, French, Irish and Canadian nationals stranded in India as requested by the embassies. Others were flown up to London, Heathrow. Earlier, it had operated a special charter flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv with Israeli nationals,” Bansal added.