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Air India outlook under new ownership will be positive: IATA boss Willie Walsh

Indian consumers deserve to have a quality sustainable airline serving the market, says Walsh.

October 08, 2021 / 07:23 PM IST
Willie Walsh says AI privatisation is a positive development for consumers.

Willie Walsh says AI privatisation is a positive development for consumers.

Willie Walsh, who took over as the Director-General of the  International Air Transport Association (IATA) in April this year, has said “it is good that Air India is being privatised.” He pointed out that with a privatised Air India, “you should expect to see increased competition."

"I think that is good for consumers," he observed.

Walsh, who has spent 40 years in the aviation industry, joined as the chief executive officer of British Airways in 2005 and led the airline through the 2008/09 global financial crisis. Immediately before taking over as the DG of IATA, which is a trade association of world airlines representing some 290 airlines or 82 percent of total air traffic, Walsh was the chief executive officer of the International Airlines Group (IAG), a group formed after the merger of BA and Iberia airlines.

In an interview, Walsh has shared his views on Air India privatisation and its impact on the global aviation market.

Edited excerpts.

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Q: Air India  is finally being privatised. What kind of impact do you see this having on the Indian and global aviation market?

A: It is good that Air India is finally being privatised. The situation whereby the Indian government has had to continuously fund AI over the years because of its significant losses clearly was not sustainable.

I think Indian consumers deserve to have a quality sustainable airline serving the market. I think the outlook for AI under its new ownership will be quite positive.

Q: Do you expect the new Air India owners to order new planes?

A: Yes. I would think that given the quality of the investors or potential investors …. It is not something they are going to do without having a plan for the future. I don’t think anybody has anything to fear from the privatisation of AI which was often the sense I got when I was in India. People were afraid of what might happen. The Indian market is a good competitive market. I suspect it will continue to be so. I personally think it is a positive development.

Q: What kind of a fight do you see a privatised AI giving to international airlines operating to and from India?

A: I think since the demise of Kingfisher and Jet (Airways) the carriers serving India from abroad may have had an easier time because the quality of competition has been low. As you know a lot of the Indian market has been served over the Gulf hubs. I think you should expect to see increased competition. I think that is good for consumers.

(Ashwini Phadnis was at the IATA AGM in Boston at the invitation of IATA)
Ashwini Phadnis is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.
first published: Oct 8, 2021 07:21 pm

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