The pilots’ strike in Air India is not just another whimsical act intended to make a loss-making airline bleed further. It is the culmination of a bad marriage between Air India and Indian Airlines
and the original culprit was former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who pushed the merger through without resolving HR issues between employees of the two merging entities.
One may or may not agree with Air India pilots who say their cadre should be favoured for training on the new Boeing Dreamliners over pilots from Indian Airlines, but in the absence of any assurance on career prospects, they are right to seek a resolution of the issue before it becomes unsolvable.
The strike is not a sign of union recalcitrance, but an act of frustration against a callous management that thinks such issues can be brushed under the carpet indefinitely. An issue that should have been sorted out before the merger is now having to be resolved through a strike. The Air India management is clearly not fit to run the airline.
Air India pilots should know better than to call in sick without prior warning. It’s unprofessional. Already, the image of the airline has hit a low with fliers, lenders and everyone else; this stri
ke will re-inforce that negative view.
Plus, it will do very little to get the pilots’ grievances addressed because management will be in a belligerent mood and unwilling to negotiate. Passengers are also unlikely to feel charitable towards the pilots, especially if they are directly affected by this flash strike.
Quite a few of them are likely to decide never to fly with the airline again to avoid any last-minute problems (why choose an airline whose pilots might go on strike without any prior warning?). That will hit revenues of the airline – and eventually the pilots’ future salaries.
And let’s face it, these employees are still lucky that they have their jobs because the government is willing to bailout a financially crippled Air India. Their counterparts at at least one private-sector airline are not so lucky. Think again, AI pilots.