Patel: Merged entity to be called Air India, will be operational by July 15

According to Patel, the airline's new logo has been sent to Boeing headquarters in Seattle, USA, to be painted on the first Boeing 777 slated for delivery to the new carrier.

"We will unveil the new look, complete with new cabin crew uniform, in June when the 777 flies in here. Once the new planes join our fleet, the jumbos owned by AI would also be sent for complete refurbishing," Patel said.

As for granting permission to domestic airlines that wish to start international operations, Patel said that the authorities would look into the matter on a "case-by-case" basis. Currently, an airline has to be in operation for five years before it can expect to go international.

"The issue would be reviewed on the basis of the need of the sector and the ability of the carrier to be able to serve international routes. It would be taken up along with the issue of allowing other Indian international airlines to fly on the lucrative Gulf routes," Patel told reporters. So far, Gulf routes have been reserved for state-owned airlines.

The government is also working on route rationalisation for both AI and IA, as they fly to some common destinations abroad. With the merger in place, planes would now be free to take up more sectors and this would result in some big savings for the merged entity. "Just to cite an example, rationalisation just in the India-Kuwait route would mean a profit of Rs80 crore," said Patel.

Meanwhile, with technical faults of old IA and AI aircraft making the headlines with increasing frequency, Patel said that the ministry had taken a serious view of the issue and had asked the director general of civil aviation (DGCA) to examine the problem. The DGCA report on the matter is expected in a few months.