In what appears to be a first, debt-ridden airline Air India has refused to issue tickets for official travel of officials from government agencies that owe the airline more than Rs 10 lakh. As per reports, various government agencies owe Air India Rs 268 crore overall for ticket purchases.
According to a report in Times of India, the airline has drawn up a list of defaulters that still owe dues to the airline. Government agencies that have made it to the list include the CBI, IB, Enforcement Directorate, Indian Audit Board, Controller of Defence Accounts, Border Security Force, Central Labour Institute and Customs commissioners.
Last month, Air India's finance department started gathering data on government dues. "Those with over Rs 10 lakh in dues have been put on 'cash and carry' in the past few weeks. They are issued tickets only if they pay upfront," said an official to the daily. The airline has, however, made some exceptions including the Airports Authority of India, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Lok Sabha.
An Air India spokesperson said that they have recovered around Rs 50 crore in the past few weeks. Some of the defaulters such as the Controller of Defence Accounts owes the airline Rs 5.4 crore in dues, while the CBI owes Rs 95 lakh. The ED owes the airline Rs 12.8 lakh, while the Lok Sabha Executive Officer MSA owes Rs 2.2 crore, as mentioned in the daily.
The airline has been struggling to stay afloat amid its debt crisis. Recently Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that if the privatisation of Air India falls through, then there would be no other option for the government but to shut operations. In response, the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association wrote to the minister earlier this week asking them to clear the dues of the employees and to let them quit the airline without serving the notice period of six months.