Troubled Indian national carrier Air India may be bought by Tata Sons, a holding company of Tata Group, and merged with conglomerate’s other airline AirAsia India, the company’s spokesperson confirms.

According to the Indian media, Tata is considered as the only potential buyer for the airline, which was put on sale by the Indian government as a whole. Other potential bidders were only interested in buying it in parts. 

“Tata Sons is currently evaluating the proposal and will consider a bid after due consideration and at the appropriate time. There is no plan to bring in a financial partner,” Tata’s spokesperson said. The bidding deadline expires on August 31, a date close to which Tata is said to be planning to place its bid.

Tata Group already owns the majority of the shares in two airlines, full-service Vistara and low-cost AirAsia India. The Air India itself was established as Tata Airlines in 1932, but separated in 1946 and nationalized in 1953, a fact which prompts many to consider the potential buyout as Air India’s “return” to the parent company.

It is not the first time Tata has considered acquiring Air India. It was one of potential buyers in 2017, when the government put the airline on sale after a $3.6 billion bailout failed to save the loss-making company. The sale was not completed.

The latest attempt to sell Air India was announced in January 2020, as the airline was registering its fifth loss-making year in a row. Since the start of COVID-19 pandemic it has announced a set of harsh cost-saving measures, but they are unlikely to change the difficult financial situation India’s national carrier has found itself in.