AI strike enters Day 2, more flights cancelled today

Three international flights of Air India were cancelled from New Delhi and Mumbai as the agitation by a section of pilots entered the second day today.

"Two flights from Delhi to Singapore (AI-380) and to New York (AI-101), while one from Mumbai to Newark (AI-191) are cancelled today. All other international flights are operating as we have made a contingency plan with the available pilots," an Air India spokesperson said.

Zee News reports that the flights cancelled since Tuesday night include those on Delhi-Toronto, Delhi-Chicago, Mumbai-Newark and Mumbai- Hongkong via Delhi and Delhi-Singapore sectors, besides eight Air India Express flights to the Middle East due to non-availability of pilots.

The national carrier has about 500 pilots who operate international flights and they have been demanding that pilots from its former state-owned partner Indian Airlines should not be trained to fly Dreamliners. Reuters

However, an IBN Live report, quoting sources, says Air India pilots may strike a deal with the government and return to work.

Around 200 Air India pilots owing allegiance to Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) had reported sick yesterday resulting in cancellation of at least 13 international flights. The pilots have been protesting against rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training.

In a statement issued late last night, Air India said " The pilots chose to deliberately damage the image and reputation of the company by disrupting flights by proceeding on mass sick leave. This most extreme and irresponsible agitation aimed at disrupting flight schedules and inflicting inconvenience on our esteemed passengers. As a consequence, Air India has derecognized the Indian Pilots Guild and sealed its offices. It has also terminated the services of and dismissed ten office bearers of the Guild."

Worst affected were the passengers, who alleged that they were not being informed about the cancellation of their flights in advance. They also alleged the airline staff were not cooperating nor they were providing any information about their flight or any alternate flights.

Some of the passengers, who checked-in their luggage and also got their boarding passes had to wait for hours to get back their luggage.

And now the strike seems to have affected the airline's ticket bookings too. Even though the polots are on strike only in Delhi and Mumbai, bookings are being effected elsewhere too. According to a Times of India report, travel agents in Chennai have received several requests to make last minute changings in bookings as passengers do not want to take any chances.

The protest action comes during the peak holiday season, which has not only led to immense inconvenience to passengers but also their exodus to competing Indian and foreign carriers.

Cracking the whip, Air India management had yesterday sacked 10 agitating pilots and derecognised their union. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh termed the strike as illegal and said the government can also shut the airline.

He told the striking pilots that they should first decide what they want -- either keep the national carrier afloat or shut it down. "We cannot keep pouring money to keep Air India afloat," Singh said.

The Rs 10 crore daily loss being caused by the agitation,is almost 30 percent of the daily earnings from international operations.

With inputs from Agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2014 08:12:05 IST

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