The ailing carrier Air India has handed over its profitable 'aircraft ground handling' business in Thiruvananthapuram (TVM) airport and a part of the revenue earned from it to a private company in the name of a joint venture. Air India used to earn Rs 40-45 crore a year from the business, but with this move the earning is down by 50%.
The term aircraft ground handling refers to services such as loading/unloading cargo, bags and food containers; cleaning cabin, towing the aircraft etc. Till May end, Air India and its fully-owned, low-cost subsidiary, Air India Air Transport Services Ltd (AIATSL) carried out the ground handling jobs for flights operated by nine foreign airlines in TVM. "In the first week of May, AI informed its southern station that its TVM ground handling contracts have been novated to Air India-Singapore Air Terminal Services (AI-SATS) with retrospective effect from April 1,'' said a source. AI-SATS is a private 50:50 joint venture company. So when AI's ground handling contracts are novated to AI-SATS, the revenue earned by the national carrier goes down to 50%.
Another detail is that about a month before his retirement in July, one of the AI general managers ( finance) brought out an order to transfer the ground handling revenue earned by AI-AIATSL in TVM in the months of April and May to AI-SATS. Documents with TOI show that AI-AIATSL provided ground handling services for these nine airlines till May end and AI-SATS took over only in June. "So the AI billing section based in Mumbai was surprised to see this order. It adds up to Rs 7-8 crore,'' said a source. Air India responded to all but this particular query.