Air India scraps 16 more flights amid pilot unrest
NEW DELHI: India’s struggling flagship carrier Air India on Monday cancelled 16 international flights as hundreds of pilots stayed away from work during a wildcat strike that has lasted one week.
A company spokesman said about 350 pilots had reported sick as part of a strategy to press the management to accept their demands in a dispute over training.
They are protesting against former Indian Airlines pilots, who moved to Air India when the two state-run companies merged in 2007, being trained for new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aeroplanes.
They say the plan threatens their career advancement prospects.
“Sixteen international flights stand cancelled today but a contingency plan will be in place shortly,” Air India spokesman Prasad Rao said in New Delhi without giving further details.
Flights into New Delhi from Paris, Riyadh, Toronto and Tokyo were among those cancelled, as were flights from Mumbai to New York.
Rao said 71 Air India pilots had been fired over the strike in a crackdown to try to force the other back to work during the country’s important May-June tourism season.
Following the merger, the state-run carrier has some 800 pilots on its payroll.
The Indian Pilots’ Guild union at the weekend said it was ready for talks to end the walkout hitting Air India, which is facing problems due to rising fuel prices, competition from low-cost rivals and a record of labour disputes.
But Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has said the pilots needed to resume flying before any discussions were held.
The government last month cleared a $5.75-billion bailout package to help cash-strapped Air India, which has an $8.3 billion debt.