'Totally delighted,' says Tata Sons chief after Air India takeover
The Tata Group on Thursday welcomed Air India to its fold as the historic privatization of the national carrier was successfully completed. Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran, who had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier in the day, promised to turn the company into a "world-class airline." The conglomerate had won the bid for the debt-ridden airline late last year.
"We are excited to have Air India back in the Tata Group and are committed to making this a world-class airline," Chandrasekaran said in a statement posted to Twitter. "I warmly welcome all the employees of Air India to our Group, and look forward to working together," he added. The Tata Group also praised PM Modi's "commitment to minimum government, maximum governance."
Meanwhile, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said the disinvestment process has been concluded in a time-bound manner. "Best wishes to the new owners. I am confident that the airline will bloom under their wings, and pave the way for a thriving & robust civil aviation industry in India (sic)," the Minister tweeted soon after the handover.
Air India, on its part, called the deal "a brand new chapter" in its history. "Two iconic names come together to embark on a voyage of excellence," the airline said in a Twitter post. "Looking forward to soaring high propelled by our rich legacy & a shared mission to serve our Nation (sic)," the post further read.
The existing members of Air India's Board have resigned and new members would soon be appointed by the Tata Group. Reportedly, Tata is in talks to appoint an expatriate from the global aviation industry as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of Air India. However, it remains unclear as to when Air India will begin flying under the Tata banner.
Under the deal, Tata will get hold of Air India's 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing/parking slots at Indian airports along with 900 such slots in foreign countries. It will further be handed over Air India Express and a 50% stake in the ground handling arm Air India SATS. But the handover excludes assets such as land and building, valued at Rs. 14,718 crore.
Air India now returns to the Tata Group after nearly seven decades of government control. It was set up as "Tata Airlines" by family scion JRD Tata in 1932, and the government took hold of it in 1953. It has also become the third airline brand associated with Tata, which already holds a majority interest in AirAsia India and Vistara.