May 14, 2012 – There has still been no end to Air India’s troubles. It’s been a week since its pilots went on a strike that has so far cost the already debt-ridden national carrier almost Rs. 96 crore (about US$18.5 million) so far.
The Maharaja’s contingency plan was supposed to take effect on Monday but now sources say that it hasn’t even been finalized as yet. That is because Air India’s Executive Pilots Association (EPA) has announced its support for the agitators.
They are currently responsible for operating the international flights. Not just the EPA, the Jet Airways pilot body SWIP has also called for the reinstatement of the sacked Air India pilots.
On the ground, the fliers continued to suffer as eight international and six domestic flights were cancelled on Monday morning.
With Air India pilots not budging from their position, their agitation entered the 7th day on Monday leading to cancellation of 20 international flights, causing inconvenience to the hundreds of passengers.
“Pilots have not reported for work. We have had to cancel 20 flights from Delhi and Mumbai,” an Air India official said.
Hundreds of passengers were stranded following the flight cancellations. The passengers alleged they had not been given the refund by the airline against their booked tickets after the cancellation of the flights.
The airline management has sacked 71 pilots and also sought cancellation of the flying licenses of 11 office-bearers of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), which is spearheading the agitation.
DGCA had on Saturday issued show-cause notices to 11 pilots of the IPG after the airline management sought cancellation of their flying licences. Over 200 pilots owing allegiance to IPG are on strike since Tuesday, badly disrupting the international operations of the national carrier. The airline has also suspended its bookings for international flights till May 15.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has asked the pilots to consider the plight of passengers and said, “We are ready for talks but they must call off their strike.”
“The first priority must be to make sure that the passengers feel they are being listened to. So let the pilots decide that. Ask for forgiveness from passengers. Start the flights … we can talk on anything after that,” Mr. Singh has said.