Air India’s ’sick’ pilots continue protest, four flights cancelled (Lead)

May 9th, 2012 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Mumbai, May 9 (IANS) The agitation by Air India’s ’sick’ pilots continued for the second day Wednesday forcing the management to cancel four international flights, an official said.

“Till now four flights have been cancelled, including New Delhi-Singapore, New Delhi-New York, New Delhi-Frankfurt and Mumbai-Newark,” a senior Air India official on the operations arm told IANS.

“We have called in reserve pilots and other flights are operating per schedule. Passengers are being updated about their flight status.”

To a query on the number of pilots who responded to Air India’s ultimatum to report back for duties by 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, the official declined to comment.

However, the derecognised Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) is likely to discuss the issue and the sacking of 10 senior pilots at a meeting later Wednesday.

Sources in the pilots union also claim that the disgruntled aviators have also reached out to chief labour commissioner’s (CLC) office.

Adopting a tough stance, Air India Tuesday sacked 10 pilots who went on mass sick leave protesting the move to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines. It also derecognised the IPG.

Pilots owing allegiance to IPG suddenly reported ’sick’ en masse, prompting Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh to term their protest illegal.

The beleaguered Air India axed two flights Tuesday from Mumbai and New Delhi each and encountered severe disruption on other routes since midnight Monday.

“How can they (pilots) go on strike when Air India is on the path of recovery and when it is not out of the woods,” an angry Ajit Singh asked.

The Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Newark service and Mumbai-Delhi-Hong Kong flights, and the New Delhi-Toronto and New Delhi-Chicago flights were cancelled Tuesday.

Among other things, the pilots are opposing the carrier’s plans to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner to the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots who are now part of the airline.

Ajit Singh dismissed this demand as unfair.

He said while the Delhi High Court had upheld the contention that the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots cannot be trained on the Dreamliner, the Supreme Court had vacated the stay.

“How can the protesting pilots expect the government to go against the Supreme Court?”

The action by pilots has come at a critical juncture when the airline was hoping to retrieve lost ground with the peak vacation season and had secured a whopping Rs.42,000 crore bailout package.

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