IndiGo Airlines Airbust A320
IndiGo is reportedly interested in buying a stake in Air India REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

The Indian government's decision to privatise debt-laden Air India has drawn criticism from unions, which say the move endangers the job security of existing employees.

The Air India Employees Union blamed the £6bn ($8bn) debt load of the country's flagship carrier on misjudgements such as abandoning certain profit-making routes and persisting with loss-making routes to the northeast of India.

The union's president held talks with the National Institution for Transforming India, the think tank that recommended the complete privatisation of Air India, on 28 June.

"We insisted that job security and welfare facilities of existing and retired employees should be taken care of in case of privatisation," Parag Azgaonkar told the Indian Express newspaper.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on 28 June that the cabinet would form a committee to decide on the details of Air India's privatisation, including on whether to write off some or all of its debt.

Reports on 29 June said IndiGo, India's biggest budget airline, had expressed interest in buying a stake in Air India.

"We have received an unsolicited expression of interest from IndiGo," civil aviation secretary RN Choubey told the Hindu.

Air India has been plagued by financial difficulties since it merged with Indian Airlines in 2007.

Previous attempts to privatise the carrier were abandoned following internal opposition.