Restructure before bailout is the message for Air India

New Delhi: A much anticipated request for a bailout for flag carrier Air India has finally been made with civil aviation minister Praful Patel meeting prime minister Manmohan Singh. It appears that he has received conditional support from with the PM asking him to ensure that the airline undertakes full restructuring so that the government should have no problems in extending support.

According to Patel, Air India has been asked to submit its restructuring plans at the earliest to the cabinet secretary, who will head a committee of secretaries to look into the matter.

"The prime minister has said that the entire weight of the government is behind Air India. It is a national carrier and it is our pride. But there is conditionality that Air India must put its best foot forward. The employees must realise that there is a problem and it is a cumulative problem," Patel said.

Patel pointed out that Air India would require a considerable degree of restructuring - organizationally, financially and in terms of manpower. He said it would be difficult for the government to continue underwriting the carrier's losses unless serious steps were undertaken to improve its functionality and financial viability.

Patel also clarified that there were no bailout figures under consideration and all speculation in this regard were baseless.