The national carrier, Air India (AI), and private airlines, including Kingfisher, owe around R2,200 crore to the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The public sector airport operator has started to build pressure on the airlines to clear these dues as it requires funds to infuse further equity of R400 crore into its ventures with private airport developers, DIAL and MIAL.
“The problem is that, on our books, we have the money. But unless the dues are cleared, we do not have cash in hand. If we have to infuse further equity into DIAL and MIAL, than we have to either borrow or ask the vendors to pay their dues,” said an AAI official.
AAI has written to the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA), agreeing to infuse further equity into the GMR-led DIAL and GVK-led DIAL. The decision to put more money in these ventures comes after the civil aviation minister's order on October 16, asking the airport operators to do away with the airport development fee (ADF) by investing more.
Air India alone owes about R1,500 crore to AAI. While the airport operator charges 18% interest rate on the dues to other vendors, the AI dues remain unserviced. The mini-ratna PSU has now asked the national carrier to clear at least a part of the dues by December. “They (AI) have assured that the dues would be cleared by December. If that happens, we would not go for borrowing money for equity,” the official said.
AAI is considering many options to recover the amount, especially from Kingfisher and Air India, the airlines that have been in bad financial health for a long time now. The airport operator has refused Kingfisher lessors the permission to take back the aircraft so as to recover a part of its R293-crore dues. It has also asked the suspended airline to vacate two hangars at Chennai and Kolkata airports.
“There are not many options. Vijay Mallya said he would not clear the dues with funds from his other ventures. For us, Mallya is one. Since the airline is already in a financial mess, we have to get the money from somewhere,” the AAI official said.