New Delhi: In a fervent appeal to Narendra Modi, over half a dozen Air India unions, including those of pilots, have urged the Prime Minister to stop disinvestment of the airline.

Instead of putting it on the block, the unions have suggested the government to make Air India a board-managed company on the lines of L&T and ITC.

“Air India has been reporting an operational profit for as long as three years. Servicing the loans is a major challenge as the annual outgo is upwards of Rs 4,000 crore. We urge the government to consider waiving off the credits and have the airline run by professional management,” the joint letter said.

The letter has been sent to Home Minister Amit Shah, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Secretary P.S. Kharola and Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani.

The unions have said that selling the airline, once viewed as a ‘jewel’, will lay heavy upon the hearts of the general public and will be a severe blow to their national pride.

Indian Commercial Pilot’s Association (ICPA), All India Cabin Crew Association and Indian Pilots’ Guild are some of the unions which have made the appeal to the Prime Minister.

The government is making an all-out attempt to sell its entire 100 per cent stake in Air India. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has set March 31, 2020, as the deadline for Air India disinvestment.

As per official sources, the bidding process for the airline could start as early as next month with the Expression of Interest (EoI) document being in the final stages. Air India has been surviving on a Rs 30,000 crore bail-out package cleared by the UPA-II government.