Tata group sole contender for Air India

NEW DELHI: The Tata group is the only bidder in the fray for national carrier Air India with just a month left for the final bidding date. The Tata group, which already has a footprint in the airlines business, has shown interest in acquiring Air India, which at one point of time was under the Tata umbrella.

The other bidders will be known in due course as globally airlines are under severe stress due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant disruptions on air travel and tourism. The Tata group is likely to go ahead with the bid while its joint venture airlines venture, Singapore Airlines, has declined to join the Air India bid due to Covid-19 woes.

The group is currently doing due diligence for the airlines. The last date for bidding is August 31 and the government is not in favour of extending the deadline.  Air India 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 its finances to a precarious position.

From Tata Airlines and Air India to Vistara and AirAsia India, the Tata group has been an important part of the growing aviation sector in India. From Tata Air Lines and the long-since nationalized Air India to strategic joint ventures with AirAsia Berhad and Singapore Airlines (SIA) for AirAsia India and Vistara, respectively, Tata has been present in the aviation sector.

The two joint venture airlines operate independently with their respective business models — low-cost AirAsia India and full-service Vistara. Vistara scaled up its operations significantly in 2019 by adding nine Boeing 737-800NG aircraft to its fleet and taking the final count of aircraft to 31 which helped the airline expand its network by more than 50 per cent.