The ban on jet fuel supply to Air India at six airports by the oil marketing firms was on account of fund crunch and not due to carrier's operational performance, airline chief Ashwani Lohani has said.
Lohani in a Facebook post on Sunday also wrote that regardless of the situation the Maharaja must keep afloat.
The oil marketing companies led by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) last week stopped supplying fuel to Air India's aircraft at Kochi, Pune, Patna, Ranchi, Vizag and Mohali airports over payment defaults, amid their combined dues mounting to a whopping around Rs 5,000 crore.
The disinvestment-bound flag carrier has a debt pile Rs 58,351 crore as on March 31 this year, while the cumulative loss is to the tune of Rs 70,000 crore with no fiscal support to the airline coming from the government his year.
"The constraints on fueling imposed on AI by the OMC's at six stations is because of an overall shortage of funds but does not in any way mean reflect on the operational performance and recent efforts of the airline," Lohani said.
The joint decision to stop fuel supply to Air India from six airports was taken by the oil marketing companies in the wake of long-overdue payments to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore, IOC said in a statement issued on behalf of the three firms.
Observing that the repayment of "huge debt" affects every single aspect of the working of the airline, he wrote, "and expecting it to service out of its revenues even the partial but still a huge debt is indicative of lack of appreciation of working of airlines and also the ground realities facing air India."
Despite all this, Air India needs to fly high, come what may, he added.
The government in the 2019-20 budget had stated it will go ahead with its plans to privatise Air India. It earmarked a paltry Rs 1 lakh from the budget for the airline, that has been somehow keeping afloat.
The Modi government in its first term had also tried to exit from the airline business but failed to get a buyer, forcing it to defer the plans.