New Air India's IPO by 2008: Patel

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New Delhi, May 22 (UNI) The newly-merged Air India (AI) and Indian Airlines will announce an initial public offer (IPO) of shares by 2008, civil aviation minister Praful Patel said today.

The mega airline will order or lease 25 new aircraft by the year-end, he said adding the ageing aircraft will be phased out eventually.

A new company called National Aviation Company Ltd has been registered to amalgamate AI, Indian and their low-fare subsidiaries AI Express and Alliance Air.

The merged entity will be partially divested to fund acquisition of new aircraft as the government-owned carrier gears up to meet growing competition from international and domestic carriers.

''Passengers will gain by experiencing world-class in-flights entertainment, timely flights and less technical glitches as the new Air India gets a fleet of spanking new aircraft,'' said Mr Patel.

Indian last year ordered 43 new Airbus aircraft while AI signed up for 68 Boeing planes. The first of Boeing B777-200LR (long range) will arrive in the national capital on July 10. It will fly on the Mumbai-New York route non-stop.

''The new airline having about 111 aircraft with both international and domestic footprint will set fresh benchmarks for efficiency and reliability,'' said the minister adding that three years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government have been satisfactory for the civil aviation sector.

''From infrastructure building to growth of new airlines, there has been a new direction. We've reached new heights in the civil aviation sector which is key driver of economic growth in the country.'' UNI

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