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35 Air-India pilots report for duty
May 01, 2003 17:00 IST
Thirty five Air-India pilots, owing allegiance to the now derecognised Indian Pilots Guild, have reported for duty, the airline said on Thursday.
"25 pilots reported for duty on Wednesday, 10 more have joined today. The number is slowly increasing", Air-India's public relations director Jitender Bhargava said in Mumbai.
Vikrant Sansare, general secretary of IPG, which is spearheading a week-long agitation on the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) issue, admitted that 20 pilots, who were part of a breakaway group, have left the Guild and reported for duty. "They have been in and out of IPG", he added.
Air-India is also seeking to hire nearly 40 pilots of Indian origin, presently laid off by foreign airlines in the Far-East, on a short-term contract basis for its Boeing 747-400 and A310 aircraft.
The availability of these pilots will depend on the foreign carriers releasing them, the sources said.
The airline is more keen to keep its A310 aircraft flying, specially to the Gulf region as presently only 50 per cent of the services are being operated.
An A-I spokesman in a statement said when the issue of SARS was first discussed in April with various associations and unions, the IPG had stayed away from the meeting.
"When there is no requirement of a health certificate on flights operated within the country, why has this certificate then been insisted upon on domestic flights", he asked.
He pointed out that the general declaration form is required to be signed by the pilot in command. As most IPG members are co-pilots, they therefore have nothing to do with the general declaration form, he added.
The airline on Thursday put into effect a three-day revised flight schedule and plans to operate three additional flights to the Gulf region on Friday.
Meanwhile, Union Labour Minister Sahib Singh Verma said that talks between the government and striking pilots were "progressing" in the "positive" direction and some breakthrough was expected by midnight.
"We are making efforts as passengers are facing problems. When other international carriers can fly to the SARS affected countries, why not our airlines," he said at a press conference.
Asked if there was any proposal to declare as illegal the agitation by the Indian Pilots' Guild, the minister said, "There is a set procedure for that and we are working on it."
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