New Delhi/Mumbai, (IANS) Air India Wednesday implemented its contingency plan to salvage its international operations by clubbing flights to destinations in Europe and the US as the pilots’ strike continued for the ninth day, leading to cancellation of only one flight.
“We have implemented the contingency plan. We are operating a bare minimum number of international operations by clubbing flights to destinations in Europe and the US,” a senior Air India official with the operations arm told IANS.
“Only one flight Delhi-Hong Kong-Seoul was cancelled. We have also brought in Airbus family of aircraft like A320, A321 and A330 to be used on international routes.”
The airline is only operating eight of its 17 Boeing 777 aircraft which are operated by the striking pilots belonging to Indian Pilots Guild (IPG).
The carrier’s low-cost international wing, Air India Express, cancelled four flights. The ongoing strike and subsequent flight cancellations by the airline have disrupted holiday and other travel plans of hundreds of people.
The airline has lost more than Rs.175 crore in the last eight days due to a grounded fleet, ticket cancellations and unused labour.
“The total loss in the week is around Rs.175 crore. We have faced ticket cancellation, unused labour and a bulk of our 777s fleet being grounded,” said the official.
The development comes a day after Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh assured the striking pilots that all their grievances will be addressed and asked them to resume duties, saying they have a responsibility toward the passengers and the country.
“I request pilots to come back to work and then all their issues can be discussed. I appeal to all the parties to request the pilots to come back to work, so that passengers will not be troubled and that Air India will be saved,” Singh said while replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on the civil aviation sector and Air India.
“They (pilots) have made four demands including the exclusive rights to operate Boeing 787. I request to them to first come back to work… they are privileged and they provide very important service.”
The four demands mentioned by Singh from the pilots union Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) include exclusive flying right on Boeing 787, payment of arrears from 2007 onwards, travel on first class when not working and the right to be promoted as commanders within six years.
“We can discuss these demands. But is it fair to go on a strike, for not being allowed to fly first class? They are well-paid and they have earned this. With great power comes great responsibility and their responsibility right now should be towards the passengers and the nation.”
Earlier, the members of the house including Gurudas Dasgupta of Communist Party of India (CPI), Basudeb Acharia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and members from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) appealed to the pilots and minister to work out a solution to end the strike.
Trouble started for the airline May 8 when pilot-members of the IPG took mass sick leave protesting the move to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.
The pilots had earlier said they were open to talks. But the government has not till now accepted the offer, saying there would be no negotiations till the pilots returned to work. The airline has also moved petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.
The apex court will hear the petition along with special leave petition (SLP) filed earlier by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), the union of erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots. Air India and Indian Airlines were officially merged into a single corporate entity on Feb 27, 2011.