Air India strike enters 55th day, two more pilots hospitalised

June 30th, 2012 - 6:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 30 (IANS) The Air India strike continued for its 55th day Saturday, taking the national carrier’s revenue losses to an estimated Rs.605 crore, while two more of the agitating pilots on a hunger strike were hospitalised.

“Two more pilots who are on hunger strike have been hospitalised. They (pilots) have been on an indefinite hunger strike since last Sunday,” Rohit Kapahi, committee member of the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG), told IANS.

“The doctors are monitoring the health of all the other pilots who are on hunger strike.”

The pilots are demanding reinstatement of their 101 sacked colleagues and recognition of their union, IPG. However, the airline’s management has maintained that pilots must end their strike first and that the sacked pilots will be reinstated on a case-by-case basis.

On Friday, two out of the 11 pilots who are on a hunger strike near the 18th century Jantar Mantar observatory in the city, were hospitalised.

“We sincerely hope that the (civil aviation) Minister now understands that this is not a token hunger strike from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., as he had mockingly stated in television interviews. While the minister is on a vacation, the lives of these young pilots is at risk,” the IPG said.

A senior airline official told IANS that Air India’s executive director, industrial relations Vinita Bhandari has directed the company’s doctors to monitor the health of pilots who are on the hunger strike venue.

“We have directed the doctors to monitor the health of pilots, irrespective of them being sacked or not,” the official said.

Around 440 pilots have struck work since May 8 against the management move to train pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines in the merged entity on the soon-to-be-inducted Boeing-787 Dreamliner.

The airline said its estimated revenue loss due to the pilots’ strike is around Rs.605 crore and that traffic to east Asia and Middle East has been badly hit.

Grounded fleet of Boeing 777s, unused manpower and absence from key routes has hit the airlines’ chances of a financial turnaround.

“Current revenue losses are nearly Rs.605 crore on various accounts like ticket cancellation, unused labour and bulk of Boeing 777 fleet being grounded,” the Air India official said.

“But the losses are less than Rs.5 crore a day,” he added.

Currently, the airline is operating only 38 of its original 45 services. Among the seven axed international destinations are Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto.

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.

Air India and Indian Airlines were merged in 2007 to form a single entity to overcome their sub-optimal performance and in the hope the step would result in Rs.1,000 crore profit in the first year itself.

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