Government owes AI Rs800 crore for VVIP flights

The union government, which has infused some Rs2000 crore into the financially troubled state-owned carrier Air India, itself owes Rs800 crore to the airline as bills for VVIP flights made over the past two years.

''It will be a big relief for us if we get those Rs800 crore due for the past two years. We will be able to pay some loan interest and perhaps take care of fuel charges too for some time,'' a senior AI official said requesting anonymity, according to The Economic Times.

The dues need to be cleared especially in light of what is happening with salary payments, he added. Being a government-owned airline, Air India flies VVIPs such as the prime minister, the president, the vice-president and visiting dignitaries inside and outside the country.

For this purpose, the VVIP security cell of the government, under the home ministry, requisitions aircraft from the airline. However, the authority responsible for paying up is the finance ministry.

''We send a reminder and the outstanding bill every time a new booking is made but they keep on deferring. That's all we can do. We have flagged off the issue to the civil aviation ministry again, though it has taken up the issue many a times,'' the official added.

At least four aircraft are permanently configured for VVIP movement. These aircraft have a bedroom and special arrangements to ensure comfort. When an Indian leader goes for a foreign visit, these aircraft are parked there until the trip is over.