By NDTV Correspondent
New Delhi, May 11, 2012 – As the strike called by at least 250 of its pilots continued for a third day today, the Air India management has moved the Supreme Court with a contempt of court plea. Earlier, more pilots were sacked as the national carrier decided to stop taking bookings for long-haul flights till at least 15th of this month. Here are 10 big facts on the story so far:
1) The Air India management has filed a contempt of court application in the Supreme Court against the on-strike pilots.
2) The Delhi High Court yesterday declared the strike illegal. But despite this, the pilots remain defiant. The management is of the view that the matter is now between the court and pilots.
3) Air India has temporarily suspended bookings for mostly West-bound flights. The debt-ridden carrier is also contacting companies to lease planes to deal with situation.
4) At the moment, Air India is using 110 executive Air India pilots to fly as many flights as possible. 48 Air India flights have been cancelled due to the strike. Air India normally operates about 50 international flights everyday.
5) Speaking to reporters this morning, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh reiterated that the government is open to discussions to sort out the matter. He however insisted that he expects the pilots to follow the High Court order and return to work first.
“Let us hope that pilots will follow High Court order. Everything is negotiable and we can talk. We have been saying this from day one. First let them make sure that Air India doesn’t lose credibility. Let them go back to work. Just imagine that in this high intensity operation, they are calling sick…these are total lies,” the minister said.
6) The main representative of the pilots, Jitendra Ahwad, said today that the pilots haven’t received the High Court’s order yet. He also said that he is still waiting for a response form Mr Singh’s office to their offer for talks.
“I called the minister’s office and residence and left messages saying I want to talk on behalf of the pilots. But I have been waiting for response. No channel is open. All doors are shut and the management is reluctant…I don’t know why,” he said.
7) The airline’s management has sacked a total of 46 pilots so far, including ten on Thursday afternoon. The pilots’ guild has appealed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh that the sacked pilots be taken back and salaries be paid to them.
8) Passengers across the country continue to suffer as the deadlock continues. They say they are upset due to the “endless wait” for information. “They kept us waiting saying they are conducting a meeting inside, but nothing happened. A lot of people waited and then left.
There are a lot of people whose visas are getting cancelled today. How are they supposed to manage?” asked an agitated passenger at Mumbai airport. The management says it is working on options to relieve passengers by offering them hotel accommodation and by trying to adjust them on other flights.
9) The pilots are upset because they say commitments made to them about promotions are not being met. They also say that pilots from Indian Airlines must not be trained to fly the Boeing Dreamliner, scheduled to join the carrier’s fleet this month. Air India pilots say this should be their prerogative and a way of preserving their seniority.
10) Air India was merged with the domestic national carrier Indian Airlines in 2007 – an unhappy marriage for pilots from both airlines. Air India operates about 50 international flights everyday.