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AI stops bookings for US, Europe, 9 more pilots sacked

Last updated on: May 10, 2012 18:37 IST

AI stops bookings for US, Europe, 9 more pilots sacked

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Crisis-hit Air India on Thursday stopped bookings for the US, Canada and Europe-bound flights till May 15 as it sacked nine more pilots on day three of their agitation which led to cancellation of over 20 flights and left hundreds of passengers fuming.

With over 200 pilots owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild refusing to join duty, Air India said it was suspending its international bookings to New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Toronto, London, Paris and Frankfurt. Some other foreign destinations are also likely to be affected.

Air India sacked nine more pilots taking the number of pilots whose services have been terminated to 45. While 10 pilots, mostly office bearers of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), were dismissed on Tuesday, another 26 were shown the door on Wednesday. AI management has also derecognised IPG.

Disapproving of the on-going strike by Air India pilots, Congress party on Thursday asked them to realise their "folly" and immediately withdraw it, saying they are "stretching the patience" of even those Parliamentarians,
who always batted for strengthening the airline.

"By continuing the strike, the pilots or rather a section of pilots, are stretching the patience of even those
Parliamentarians" who have always fought for taking Air India to its earlier strong position, party spokesperson Manish
Tewari told reporters.

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Image: Air India ticket counter.
Photographs: Reuters.

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"Showing no signs of relenting, the IPG asserted that the AI management must withdraw the sack orders and till then there was no question of resuming work.

The agitating pilots sought the intervention of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resolve the impasse.

"It is a matter of life and death and career for the pilots. Talks were held by IPG with AI management which did not honour its commitments. The management is having a non-serious attitude towards our grievances,'" Jitendra Awhad, IPG president said.

Manish Tewari  said that if the Air India pilots continue their strike, then the support for them will wear thin and will
weaken the forces standing for them in the public eye.

Replying to questions, Tewari, at the same time, acknowledged that there are indeed some "legacy issues" with
Air India, which the government is trying to address, when pointed out that there are allegations it was the policies of
the government in last eight years that pushed the airlines into such a mess.

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Image: A fuel tanker moves past Air India passenger jets parked at an airport in Kolkata.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters.

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Over 20 Air India flights were cancelled from Delhi and Mumbai. From Delhi flights to Frankfurt, Shanghai, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago and Seoul were cancelled while

Air India flights to New York, Riyadh and Shanghai were not operating from Mumbai. Air India daily operates about 50 international flights and 400 domestic flights.

"Continuing strike by a section of Air India pilots is indeed very distressing. Both the government and Parliament
have walked the extra mile to help Air India alleviate its distressful financial condition. The strike is causing a loss
of Rs 10 crore a day and the airlines had to suspend its long distance flights," Tewari said.

He said that such a scenario not only affects the earning of the airlines and causes inconvenience to passengers but
also hits the brand equity of Air India.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said, "if they (pilots) are not willing to follow the court order, why would they listen to me. They have to decide to follow the High Court order. That's the law but they are not willing to do so. What can we do."


Image: Air India.
Photographs: Reuters.

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