New Delhi/Mumbai, May 10 (IANS) The pilots’ agitation in Air India continued for the third day Thursday forcing the management to cancel eight more international flights, stop bookings on some major long-haul routes for the next five days and sack nine more pilots.
‘We had to cancel eight international flights from Delhi and Mumbai. Rest all international flights are operating per schedule,’ a senior Air India official told IANS in New Delhi.
‘We are using reserve pilots who are trained to operate Boeing 777 aircraft. Passengers are being updated about their flight status.’
The flights to and from the national capital to various international destinations like Chicago, Toronto, Shanghai, Paris and Frankfurt have been affected.
From Mumbai, two international operations to New Jersey and Riyadh were cancelled.
The flag carrier’s international low-cost subsidiary Air India Express had also to cancel six flight operations to various destinations from south India to the Middle East.
The airline also announced that it has closed ticket bookings on ultra long-haul routes till May 15. Closure in ticket bookings will affect around 15 flights to West-bound destinations such as the US, Europe, and some other destinations like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
‘Currently we have deployed 777 aircraft on some of these routes. 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,’ sources in the airline said.
The airline has 17 aircraft of 777 type in the fleet.
The airline also sacked nine more pilots Thursday who went on mass sick leave Tuesday.
‘We have sacked nine more pilots. We are ready for talks, negotiations but we will also not tolerate this kind of illegal action which will permanently hurt the airline’s image,’ the airline official said.
The flag carrier had sacked 26 pilots on Wednesday and 10 pilots on Tuesday. Air India also derecognised their union – Indian Pilots Guild (IPG).
Trouble started for the airline when pilots belonging to IPG, of pre-merger Air India pilots, had gone on mass ‘sick’ leave protesting the move by the airline to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.
The stir caused four international flight cancellations each on Tuesday and Wednesday
The airline added that it has also filed a contempt of court petition in the Delhi High Court against the pilots who were restrained by the Court not to go on a strike.
The airline had Wednesday moved the Delhi High Court, which restrained the pilots from going on strike, termed illegal by Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh.
While the IPG has said it is open to talks, the government has made it clear that there would be no negotiations till the pilots returned to work.
Air India is estimated to be suffering a loss of Rs.10 crore per day, besides loss in passenger goodwill and international image at the height of the holiday season.