Pilots’ strike enters 4th day; Air India trims services to 39 out of 320

PTI New Delhi | Updated on April 30, 2011 Published on April 30, 2011

Air India today further reduced its operations to 39 domestic flights out of its regular 320 as the pilots’ strike entered the fourth day causing inconvenience to passengers.

“We have curtailed more than 52 per cent of our domestic flights and operating on only trunk routes that is too metro cities,” an AI spokesperson said.

“Under the contingency plan, we have reduced the number of flights as we do not have any pilots,” he said.

While 21 flights will be operated from the national capital, Air India’s Mumbai operations have almost come to a standstill as the airline may operate just five flights between 9 a.m. and 11.30 a.m., an AI spokeswoman said in Mumbai. The national carrier did not undertake any operations from Mumbai before 9 a.m.

According to sources, the AI will be operating Delhi-Patna-Varanasi flight AI 409 and Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi AI 805 on an aircraft which has been taken on wet lease to operate the two flights. Under a wet lease, an aircraft comes along with crew members.

AI has withdrawn or cancelled 120 domestic flights.

Meanwhile, the Mumbai International Airport’s main runway would be closed between 11.30 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. today for repair work. The runway was closed on April 23 also for the same reason.

On Friday, AI had operated just 12 flights from the financial capital. Normally, the state-owned carrier operates over 40 flights a day on the domestic sector from Mumbai using narrow bodied aircraft.

Nearly 850 AI pilots are continuing their strike ignoring stern warning of sacking by the management and the Delhi High Court’s decision to initiate contempt proceedings against them. Striking Air India pilots on Friday said they were willing to go to jail and refused to call off their agitation.

The Delhi High Court on Friday initiated contempt of court proceedings against the pilots for their “utter defiance” of its order on Wednesday to call off the agitation calling it as “brazen and smacking of sheer arrogance’’.

A lockout of the airline and invoking of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) were also being mulled to crack down on the pilots.

The AI management ordered the pilots to report for duty failing which it said the airline “is at liberty to take any action as deemed fit including termination of services’’.

The management sacked two more pilots on Friday taking the number of pilots terminated to nine. Six pilots have been already suspended.

The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which is spearheading the stir, is demanding a higher fixed component in the salary package, a CBI probe into alleged mismanagement which has led to losses of over Rs 16,000 crore and removal of Air India CMD, Mr Arvind Jadhav, holding him responsible for the “financial mess”.

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Published on April 30, 2011
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