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New Delhi/Bangalore, Sept. 28

AIR travel and banking operations throughout the country will be disrupted tomorrow due to the one-day strike call given by trade unions to protest against the Government decision to privatise profit making public sector entities.

However, those travelling by train can breathe a sigh of relief as none of the recognised railway unions are participating in the strike, according to Railway officials. But there could be disruptions at some localised places with local workers obstructing the movement of trains.

Telecom unions have said that BSNL and MTNL workers would not be participating in the strike.

Kolkata to be badly hit: While air travel to and from Kolkata will be severely affected with the two private sector airlines - Jet Airways and Air Sahara - cancelling flights and Indian Airlines announcing curtailment of flights, the domestic airline industry is looking to combine the operations of some flights some to overcome inconvenience to air passengers. Most airlines have reported a drop in bookings for travel on Thursday.

"IA will combine four to five flights each being operated from Delhi and Mumbai. However, from other cities the operations will be normal," an airline official said.

AI to operate all flights: A spokesman of Air India added that the airline was operating all its flight except for two flights being operated to London. "Passengers booked on these flights which from Delhi and Mumbai are being flown on other flights," the spokesman said.

Kingfisher cancels flights: In a statement the Chairman and Managing Director, Kingfisher Airlines, Mr Vijay Mallya, said "on an average, 25 per cent of our flights operating tomorrow have been cancelled." It has cancelled six morning flights including Bangalore-Mumbai, Bangalore-New Delhi and New Delhi-Mumbai sectors on both ways.

Four flights have been combined - two on the Delhi-Mumbai route and two on the return route.

Air Deccan retains schedule: Air Deccan, however, said its schedules were intact for the day. "We are not cancelling any flight," the Managing Director, Capt G.R. Gopinath, told Business Line. "The Government has said all the necessary services will be provided. The air traffic control staff will be working. In any case we are not dependent on them for ground handling." Bookings for the day, he said, were lower than normal.

Earlier this month, the Airports Authority of India Joint Workers Forum had announced that it would be joining the one-day strike call given by the sponsoring committee of the Central Trade Unions. The forum has now decided that the strike would be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of a 24-hour strike.

The Air Traffic Controllers have, however, not decided to join the strike.

Officials indicated that with airline staff looking after both passenger and baggage check-in the journey of passengers should be smooth.

Directive to States: Meanwhile, the Secretary Civil Aviation, Mr Ajay Prasad said that the Centre has requested all State Governments to ensure that law and order is maintained and passengers are not prevented from reaching or leaving the airports.

"The Central Industrial Security Force, which looks after airport security has also taken additional steps to ensure that there is no untoward incident. There will be no compromise on safety standards of the airline operations. Necessary steps are being taken to ensure that flights are operated safely."

The Government has also issued a notification whereby any person indulging in violence or disruption of flights can be arrested, the Secretary said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 29, 2005)
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