New Delhi: The government proposes to spend Rs4,469.50 crore to buy two new Boeing 777-300 ER jets for VIP operations, including flying the prime minister on international state visits.

This duty is currently performed by Air India’s Boeing’s four-engine 747 jets. The allocation, besides a reduction of annual support to Air India, indicates the government is preparing to sell the state-run airline soon.

The government has been providing about Rs2,000 crore equity support to Air India over the past few years as part of a promise in 2012.

The Boeing 777 can fly non-stop to the US and is a two-engine aircraft. They were part of the 111 planes ordered by the previous government for Air India. These will be delivered by next month completing the 111 order of Air India and will be taken over by the government agencies for refitment to meet security requirements.

According to the Budget document, an amount of Rs506 crore is to come for Air India in the next fiscal by way of IEBR (internal and extra-budgetary resources). IEBR refers to a company raising funds through internal resources and external borrowings. In the case of Airports Authority of India (AAI), the budgetary allocation has been slashed to Rs73.31 crore from Rs149.93 crore in 2017-18.

AAI is to raise Rs4,086 crore by way of IEBR. The document said that grants-in-aid is extended to AAI “as reimbursement of expenditure already done by them on the existing projects. The funds are provided for Pakyong airport". Among other items, Rs50 crore has been allocated for Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Academy and National Aviation University. In 2018-19, both Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) would receive slightly higher allocation of Rs210 crore and Rs70 crore, respectively. Helicopter services provider Pawan Hans is to raise Rs9 crore through IEBR in next fiscal, according to the document.

“We propose to expand our airport capacity more than five times to handle a billion trips a year under a new initiative - NABH (NextGen Airports for Bharat) Nirman. Balance sheet of AAI shall be leveraged to raise more resources for funding this expansion," finance minister Arun Jaitley said in his Budget speech.

PTI contributed to the story.

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