New Delhi/Mumbai, May 11 (IANS) National carrier Air India Friday grounded the bulk of its Boeing 777 fleet as the pilots’ agitation continued for the fourth day, an official said.
‘We have almost grounded the fleet of 777s. Some are stationed in Mumbai and the rest are in Delhi. Some are operating to destinations like Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it depends on the availability of pilots,’ a senior Air India official in the operations arm told IANS.
The airline said the lack of trained pilots to operate the ultra-long range aircraft was the reason behind their grounding.
‘Not every pilot can fly this type of an aircraft. The pilots who are agitating have had adequate training on these aircraft. And if the stir continues we will have no option but to ground these aircraft.’
Apart from loosing an estimated Rs.10 crore per day due to the agitation, the company will also have to incur costs on maintaining the grounded aircraft.
‘Costs such as housing the aircraft at the airport while it is out of service will climb up. Plus, there will be maintenance charges while the aircraft is not earning any revenue.’
The airline has 17 B-777 aircraft.
Trouble started for the airline when pilots belonging to IPG – pre-merger Air India pilots – took mass sick leave protesting the move by the airline to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.
Air India had to even stop bookings on some of its ultra long-haul routes till May 15, effectively cancelling more than 15 flights per day to major sectors such as the US, Europe, and some other destinations like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The airline has also moved petitions in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court and has sacked around 46 pilots in the last few days
The airline had to cancelled six flights Friday, including one of the Air India Express, and rescheduled over a dozen others.