Air India returns to Tatas' hangar | Timeline

Air India flight 185 arrives from New Delhi. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier/File Photo

New Delhi: After 69 years, Air India on January 27, 2022, Thursday, returned to its founding father, the Tata Group. The takeover by the salt-to-software conglomerate ends years of failed attempts to sell the money-losing airline that had been kept afloat all these years with thousands of crores of taxpayer money.

Tata Group founder JRD Tata had originally launched the airline in 1932 as the nation's first carrier, flying mail between Karachi in then-undivided, British-ruled India and Bombay. It was later nationalised.

After more than two decades and three attempts, the government finally sold the loss-making carrier.

The following is a brief history of the loss-making airline:

  • Jan. 27, 2022 - Nearly seven decades after it lost control, Tatas regain ownership of Air India.
  • Oct. 25, 2021 - Government inks share purchase agreement with Tata Group for the handover of Air India.
  • Oct. 8, 2021 - Government announces Tata Sons as the winning bidder for its 100% stake in Air India, after the conglomerate bid Rs 18,000 crore.
  • Sept. 15, 2021 - India's finance ministry says Air India has received financial bids from Tata Sons and Ajay Singh, promoter of budget airline SpiceJet.
  • Oct. 29, 2020 - The government gets two bids after extending the deadline several times.
  • Sept. 2021 - Income Tax department allows new owners of Air India to carry forward losses and set them off against future profits.
  • April 2021 - Government starts inviting financial bids for Air India. September 15 last date to put in bids.
  • March 2021 - Hardeep Singh Puri, the then Civil Aviation Minister said: There is no choice, we either privatise or we close the airline. We run a loss of Rs 20 crore every day despite Air India making money now".
  • Dec. 2020: DIPAM Secretary said Air India EOI received "multiple bids".
  • Oct. 2020: Government sweetens deal; gives flexibility to investors to decide on the amount of Air India debt they want to absorb.
  • Aug. 7, 2020 - At least 17 people are killed and more than 100 injured after a plane belonging to budget arm Air India Express overshoots the runway in Calicut International Airport in Karipur in Kerala.
  • Jan. 2020: Government floats EoI for Air India privatisation. Government to fully exit Air India by selling 100 per cent. The deal would also include 100 per cent in Air India Express and 50 per cent in ground handling arm AISATS. The last date to bid was extended 5 times until December 14. As per the EoI, of the airline's total debt of Rs 60,074 crore as of March 31, 2019, the buyer would be required to absorb Rs 23,286.5 crore.
  • Dec. 12, 2019 - The government decides to sell 100% of its stake after failing to find takers for its offer of 76% and full debt of the company. Provides flexible debt assumption terms.
  • June 20, 2018 - India shelves a plan to sell a 76% stake due to lack of interest from bidders. Government decides to go slow on Air India sale till oil prices soften.
  • May 31, 2018 - India's offer to sell a stake in Air India fails to attract a single bidder by the deadline, with potential buyers citing onerous conditions.
  • March 28, 2018 - India plans to sell a controlling stake, along with roughly $5.1 billion of the carrier's debt.
  • June 2017: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave in-principle approval to the consideration for strategic disinvestment of Air India and its five subsidiaries. A Panel of Ministers or Air India Specific Alternate Mechanism (AISAM) was constituted for this purpose.
  • April 2012 - India approves a $5.8 billion bailout for Air India, which was to be received by 2020.
  • July 2009 - Appoints State Bank of India to prepare a roadmap for the airline's recovery after years of losses under state control and emergence of new players.
  • As part of its broader privatisation and disinvestment push, in 2000-01 the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee tried to sell a minority stake or 40 per cent stake in Air India. Singapore Airlines along with the Tata group showed interest in buying the stake, but eventually, Singapore Airlines pulled out mainly due to opposition to privatisation by trade unions. Hence, derailing the disinvestment plan. The subsequent 10 years of Congress-led UPA governments from 2004-14 did not pursue any privatisation agenda, including that of Air India.
  • With the opening up of the aviation sector to private players in 1994-95 and private entities offering cheaper tickets, Air India gradually started losing market share.
  • In 1953, Air India was nationalised and for the next over four decades it remained the prized possession for India, controlling the majority of the domestic airspace.
  • In 1948, Air India International was launched with flights to Europe. The international service was among the first public-private partnerships in India, with the government holding 49 per cent, the Tatas keeping 25 per cent and the public owning the rest.
  • 1946 - Tata Airlines converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Ltd. In the same year, the airline adopts its widely recognised 'Maharaja' mascot.
  • 1932 - Air India founded by JRD Tata as Tata Airlines, India's first airline. It operated only domestic flights at that time.

(With PTI and Reuters inputs)

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