NEW DELHI– The Supreme Court on Monday said that while private airlines were prospering, Air India was running into losses and wondered who should be held accountable for the mess inflicting the national carrier.

“While private airlines are prospering, Air India is going into red. Who should be held responsible for Air India mess? There are so many stories going around,” observed a bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice A.K.Sikri and Justice R. Banumathi.

The court’s observation came in the course of the hearing of a plea by Air India against the Himachal Pradesh High Court’s December 7 order asking it to commence flights on trial basis connecting Shimla with Delhi by air.

Appearing for the national carrier, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court that the flight connecting Shimla with Delhi was not economical as there were 12 to 15 one way passengers only, and that Shimla airport did not have refuelling facilities.

Apparently unimpressed, the court said that “you have already constructed an airport, probably spending Rs. 100 crores, now you can’t say that there is no refuelling facilities”.

While extending its December 16 order of status quo the court issued notice to the civil aviation ministry, the Airports Authority of India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and the Himachal Pradesh government.

The apex court on December 16, while directing the hearing of the matter on January 4 had ordered status quo thereby putting on hold the December 7 high court direction to Air India to undertake for trial flights.

Notice has also been issued to PIL petitioner Paras Daulta on whose public interest suit the high court had on December 7 Aasked to Air India to undertake trial flight from Shimla’s Jubbarhatti airport and Delhi.

The matter will come up for hearing on February 16.