Cash-strapped Air India’s purchase of Boeing 777 aircraft pushed it into such a state of financial unavailability that within five years, the airline had to sell its aircraft to Etihad at one-fifth of the original price, former comptroller and auditor general Vinod Rai told TOI in an exclusive interview on Friday .
Rai said that Air India was pushed to purchase these aircraft by the then civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, who wanted the airline to have direct flights from India to the US and Canada. The upshot of this was virtually crippling for AI. “When any purchase has a debt proportion of 97 per cent, there’s no way it can be commercially profit able. Within five years of the 777s purchased by AI, they had to be sold to Etihad at five for the price of one. We bought one aircraft at one price and sold it at one-fifth of that price,” said Rai.