Air India crisis enters 10th day, losses touch Rs.188 crore
New Delhi/Mumbai, May 17 (IANS) The Air India crisis entered its 10th day Thursday as the impasse between agitating pilots and the management continued and the carrier's losses mounted to Rs.188 crore.
'We are currently operating under the contingency plan, in which we are operating a bare minimum number of international operations by clubbing flights to destinations in Europe and the US,' a senior official of Air India's operations arm told IANS.
'We have lost about Rs.188 crore due to ticket cancellations, unused labour and with a bulk of our Boeing-777 fleet grounded. Our losses per day stand at Rs.13 crore,' the official said.
The airline has deployed the Airbus family of aircraft such as A320, A321 and A330 for international routes.
It is only operating eight of its 17 Boeing-777 aircraft which are normally manned by the striking pilots belonging to Indian Pilots Guild (IPG).
The carrier's low-cost international wing, Air India Express, is also facing the brunt of the agitation. The strike and the subsequent flight cancellations by the airline have disrupted holiday and other travel plans of hundreds of people.
The development comes a day after cracks reportedly appeared among the striking pilots with some of them returning to work and the management saying it expected more to follow.
The IPG, however, denied this and said their strike was on.
The Air India management backed its claims that the pilots' protest was losing steam after three pilots who had reported sick returned to work.
Another point the management made was that the civil aviation ministry has made it clear that no talks would be held while the protest was on.
'No one is ready to talk to them until they return to work. All options, including that of reinstating the sacked pilots, are on the table. But nothing is certain as of now. If better sense prevails, we can see the end of the strike very soon,' an Air India official had said Wednesday.
But the pilots' union said the strike would continue and the pilots would remain united over their 'genuine and valid demands'.
'The protest is on. I don't know where is this news coming from,' Jitendra Awadh, IPG president, told IANS from Mumbai.
'The three pilots referred to by Air India are not from our union and they all are under probation,' said another union leader.
The pilots had earlier said they were open to talks. But the government has not yet accepted the offer, saying there will be no negotiations unless the pilots returned to work.
The pilots have made four demands which include exclusive flying right on Boeing 787 aircraft, 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,' Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had informed parliament Tuesday.
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.
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