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Air-India cancels 150 flights as pilots’ strike continues
NEW DELHI CLOSE to 150 flights were grounded on Saturday as nearly half of Air-India’s 1,600 pilots continued their strike for the fourth day despite facing a possible six-month jail for contempt of court and amid talks of a partial lockout.
Air-India has reportedly cancelled 150 flights and rescheduled 35 flights out of its daily 225 domestic flight network.
While 60 flights were cancelled in Mumbai, 14 were grounded in Kolkata and 12 in Kerala.
“We will operate just around 40 flights nationally, which includes 13 flights from Delhi, where on an average we have 52 flights,” a senior Air India official with the operational arm of the airline said.
According to the official, 100 domestic flights of its subsidiary arm of Alliance Air were still active.
“Only the operations of Air India’s main domestic arm are effected.
Our subsidiary Alliance Air is still active with 100 flights on the national network,” said the official.
He further said the airline had since Thursday adopted a reduced operations plan, where fewer flights by widebodied aircraft would be operated.
“Currently, our operations are going on smoothly.
As we have stopped ticket bookings, passenger loads will also come down and we will be able to tide over this period,” the official said.
Air-India on Friday curtailed its regular operations by 55 percent from its normal daily schedule of 225.
The official rubbished the talks about a possible lock out of Air-India, and termed it as baseless rumours floated by the unions.
“These are just rumours being floated about a lock out and nothing more.
How can the national carrier be locked out.
We have enough executive pilots to operate our flights,” the official said.
The official alleged that some pilots in the striking unions may be behind these rumours.
“It may be just to sensationalise their efforts in pressurising the management that these rumours are being floated by some striking pilots.” According to the official, the possibility of the imposition of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) or any other move may be some time away as the matter is subjudice.
“There is no basis in this lock-out talk.
The management has said nothing, the government is with us and the matter is in court.
We have even stopped booking, so at the end, we are very comfortable,” the official said.
Meanwhile, the strike has caused a net loss of Rs.26 crore to the airline, already facing one of its worst financial crises with losses mounting to nearly $3 billion since 2007 when Indian Airlines was merged with Air-India under a new entity - National Aviation Company of India Limited.
“Nobody can dictate terms to the government, especially a few pilots.
They are one of the highest paid people in this country,” said Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi, who has totally backed the airline management after briefing the federal cabinet.
According to another airline official, the management is also considering an extension in the suspension of further bookings beyond the originally planned on Sunday.
“There are various options being considered.
But certainly the pilots will not dictate terms.” The Delhi High Court on Friday initiated contempt proceedings against the members of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), the union behind the strike and whose members were on the payroll of erstwhile Indian Airlines.