For the third time since the process to divest national carrier Air India began in January, the government has been again forced to further push the dates because of the COVID-19 disruption.
In a notice on June 27, Ministry of Finance announced that the last day to submit expression of interest has been extended to August 31, from June 30.
Also, now the government will intimate the 'qualified interested bidders' by September 14, from July 14 earlier.
The extension was a foregone conclusion, with some even suggesting the government to pause the divestment process for the moment.
Kapil Kaul, CEO of aviation advisory firm CAPA India, had recently said that Air India needs to have a Plan B to continue operating, as the COVID-19 led disruption has delayed its planned divestment.
Kaul, addressing a webinar on June 26, had said there will be hesitation among interested airlines or investors to commit capital in an environment where demand has collapsed and there is question mark on the viability of airline operations.
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Instead, the government should look at a Plan B that will lead Air India to a post COVID-19 scenario, when the divestment process can resume.
"How do we make the airline smarter, get professional management, redesign the company and reduce costs, these are the things that the government should look to do meanwhile," Kaul said.
Air India incurs a loss of up to Rs 30 crore a day, and has been surviving because of government largesse.
Apart from Air India, its units Air India Express and Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd, are also on the block.
Initially, March 17 was the deadline to submit expression of interest. This was later pushed to April 30, and then to June 30.