Smooth flight for Air India top priority: Vayalar Ravi

January 20th, 2011 - 5:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) India’s new Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi Thursday said nursing Air India back to health will be his top priority and he would work towards its return to profitability with cooperation from workers and staff unions.Taking charge of the high-profile ministry at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan here, the veteran Congress leader said he was also keen to listen to the views of the carrier’s employees and would take them into confidence in realising the larger goal.

“Among my priorities would be to improve Air India’s services and make it a profitable institution — restore its lost glory,” Ravi, who also holds charge of the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs — told reporters after taking charge of his new ministry.

“I appeal to all the trade unions to support the ministry so that we can go ahead with all the progress. I will try to take them into confidence,” said the minister, a former trade unionist, adding: “The employees and the corporates are like my two hands”.

Reviving the carrier will be a major challenge as the National Aviation Company of India — the parent company of the Air India brand — suffered losses to the tune of Rs.5,551 crore in 2009-10, in addition to the loss of Rs.7,189 crore in the previous year.

Earlier, the government had infused equity worth Rs.800 crore in February 2010 and another dose of Rs.1,200 crore last month to tide over the crisis and finance the fleet acquisition plan of 111 aircraft ordered from Boeing and Airbus in 2006.

The aviation portfolio was previously held by Praful Patel, as a minister of state with independent charge, since the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in May 2004. Patel has been given charge of heavy industries with cabinet rank.

“I’m taking over from one of my best friends and colleagues Praful Patel, responsible for making the aviation sector grow very fast,” said Ravi, adding: “Earlier, I used to watch things as a passenger. This experience will help me now.”

Ravi will also oversee the preparations for centenary celebrations of India’s first commercial flight Feb 18, 1911 which flew from Allahabad to Naini, both in Uttar Pradesh.

The 73-year-old politician, who was also home minister of Kerala in early 1980s, has been a member of the parliamentary consultative committee on civil aviation.

The new charge comes at a time when Kerala’s new air terminal in Thiruvananthapuram is ready. Ravi was to inaugurate it last July, but Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan had instead asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to do the honours.

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