Crucial Air India meeting postponed

Kochi, Nov 10 (IANS) State-run Air India’s board meeting scheduled to be held here Thursday to discuss relocation of the headquarters of its low-cost arm from Mumbai to a Kerala city and its rebranding as ‘Express India’ has been postponed, airline sources Wednesday said.

According to sources, the meeting was postponed due to a rush to start the national carrier’s operations of all domestic and international flights at Delhi airport from the new Terminal-3 (T3).

‘All the directors are now busy with this for the past few days and hence the (Kochi) meeting stands postponed,’ said an Air India official who did not wish to be identified.

The proposed meeting was crucial because it was scheduled at a time when the carrier had drawn flak for withdrawing flights from Kerala to the Middle East.

‘Following an outcry, they have reinstated quite a number of flights, with the recently cancelled Thiruvananthapuram-Bangalore-Chennai-Bangalore being restored from Thursday,’ said an Air India official who did not wish to be identifed.

‘Another decision that is likely to be taken up is rebranding the airline with a new name, which can mean a huge expenditure for the airline.’

Air India Express currently has 25 aircraft and a rebranding exercise may, therefore, cost a fortune. The airline has run into losses worth crores of rupees in the past four fiscals.

Another issue to be decided is the shifting of its headquarters from Mumbai to a Kerala city, with both Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi clamoring for it.

Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor has been vigorously campaigning for moving the Air India headquarters to his constituency.

Air India Express operates more than 250 flights every week and touches the three international airports in the state.

K.V. Muraleedharan, president of the Kerala Association of Travel Agents, said lobbies were working hard to make Kochi the base of Air India Express.

‘It would be a foolish decision if it is moved to Kochi because Air India’s brand new hangar in Thiruvananthapuram is almost complete. Likewise there are two huge buildings for the airline in the state capital, while it has to rent out the space at Kochi. Moreover, the airport here is situated in the heart of the city, whereas in Kochi it is not,’ said Muraleedharan.

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