Air India begins transfer of staff to ground-handling operations

Mumbai: Air India starts a cumbersome process of shifting more than a third of its bloated staff strength to a ground-handling joint venture with Singapore Airport Terminal Services. The move, which commenced Friday, is aimed at complying with conditions for a turnaround plan and will have to be carried out in the face of opposition from two different unions.

While some staff located at the Delhi airport will move to the new entity from Friday, staff at Mumbai is expected to begin their transition from next week.

12,000 AI staff will become part of the new ground-handling joint venture, Air India Singapore Airport Terminal Services (AISATS), once the transfer operation is carried out successfully.

AISATS, which looks to take over ground-handling from the airline's wholly-owned arm Air India Air Transport Services Ltd (AIATSL), is already facing resistance from AI's existing unions.

AISATS started operations at Bangalore in 2008. It is now operating also from Hyderabad and New Delhi. The joint venture together employs around 300 people at Bangalore and Hyderabad international airports.

A move last month to commence operations at Thiruvananthapuram airport ran into trouble with the staff of Air India Air Transport Services Ltd (AIATSL) asking the state government to intervene in the dispute.