Govt not to "force" Air India to fly to unconnected cities

New Delhi, Mar 10: Government on Thursday said it will not "force" Air India to flying to unconnected cities after a Congress member in Lok Sabha said it should ask the state-run carrier to do so if it was unable to push private airlines into it.

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said Air India is coming out of losses because of the government's "non-interference" policy and maintained that its job was to "facilitate and not compel" airline operations.

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Raju made the remarks during Question Hour after a number of members raised the issue of lack of air connectivity to the regions they came from and Rajiv Satav (Cong) urged him to ask Air India to connect places like Nanded, a pilgrimage centre of the Sikhs.

"Air India is coming out of losses because of our non-interference. We won't force them," the Minister said. Raju, however, said the government from time to time gave suggestions to airlines and noted that in the draft civil aviation policy there is a proposal to connect unserved and unconnected airports under the Regional Connectivity Scheme.

"The details of the scheme including the action plan are being finalised... An indicative cost of Rs 50-100 crore has been envisaged in the budget speech for 2016-1017," he said.

"The commencement of activity in these unconnected, unserved airports and airstrips depends on the willingness of the airlines and of the state governments to agree to the conditions of the scheme," he said in a written reply.


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