Passengers, a harried lot as pilots' strike intensifies

Debabrata Das Mumbai | Updated on November 11, 2017 Published on April 29, 2011

Stranded passengers at the T3 terminal of the IGI airport on the third day of Air India pilots’ strike, in the Capital on Friday. – Ramesh Sharma   -  Business Line

“The problem is the delay in getting an alternate flight. Being a regular flyer, I got information from the call centre and came here on time but there are passengers here who came early and have been waiting for 6-7 hours to get on to alternate flights,” said Mr Darwesh Karani, a Mumbai-based textile trader who has been affected by the flight cancellations because of the Air India pilots' strike.

As the strike entered its third day, Air India, which normally operates 320 flights on a daily basis, cancelled at least 130 flights on Friday as compared to 57 flights on April 27, and 96 on April 28.

Only 39 flights were operated on Friday, including a jumbo jet service on the Mumbai-Delhi sector to accommodate the rush of passengers.

But even amidst the mounting number of cancellations, the national carrier is doing its best to accommodate passengers on other private airlines. However, confusion and delays continue to harrow the passengers.

“We reached here early after we heard of the strike and the cancellations. We didn't know what to do. But they have given us seats on Jet Airways but we had to wait for four more hours,” said Mr Rahul Mishra, who was travelling with his family from Mumbai to Bangalore.

For others who were looking for alternate means of transport including railways, lack of tickets meant they had to deal with touts who cashed in and jacked up the ticket prices.

“Touts are having a field day. On normal days, a III-tier AC Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani ticket sold by these touts go for Rs 2,500. Today they are charging anything above Rs 4,000,” said traveller Mr Kamalesh Mukundan.

Nearly 70-80 per cent of Air India's 80 daily flights from Mumbai were cancelled. Revenue losses have begun piling up for the national carrier.

Air India estimates the revenue loss to be at Rs 26.5 crore for the first three days of the strike which intensified on Friday. Support for the striking pilots also came in from the executive pilots who decided to call in sick in support of the strike.

Despite the Delhi High Court's decision to initiate contempt proceedings, the striking Air India pilots are in no mood to give up. The Indian Commercial Pilots Association said that the pilots are ready to go to jail but not end the strike.

HC notices

Ms Justice Gita Mittal, meanwhile, issued notices to President of ICPA, Captain A.S. Bhinder; General Secretary Captain Rishabh Kapoor; and Regional Secretary Mr Amitesh Ahuja; and asked them to be present before her on the next date of hearing – May 2 – to answer the contempt charge.

Ministry of Civil Aviation officials will wait till Monday before taking any “drastic” measures. The Ministry is considering two options – invoking Essential Service Maintenance Act (ESMA) or resorting to lockout – to deal with the striking pilots.

However, invoking the ESMA is a tricky proposition as it could be challenged in court, say Ministry officials. The option of a lockout on the other hand would require political consensus.

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Published on April 29, 2011
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