New Air India chief Pradeep Kharola has told employees of the struggling airline that the company has to “perform if we do not want to perish”. In a New Year’s message to the staff, Kharola wrote that “professional and productive work culture” was key to turn the airline around, PTI reported on Sunday.

Kharola took charge as the chairman and managing director of Air India on December 11.

The onus to steer the company out of turbulence lies on all staff members, he wrote in his letter. “We must...aim to improve our performance in every sphere to match up to industry benchmarks,” he said.

“We have to adopt a professional and productive work culture which will hold the key for our turnaround...your hard work has helped Air India to improve in some of the key operational parameters in recent times, but still, we have miles to go,” Kharola wrote.

“I implore all of you to sustain this effort to resurrect the pride and glory of the airline,” the letter read.

The debt-laden carrier is surviving on taxpayers’ money, and the government has decided on a strategic disinvestment to cut these losses. By the end of 2016-’17, Air India’s total debt was Rs 48,876 crore. The company has not returned a profit in 10 years.