Air India (AI) sacked nine more pilots on the fourth day of the strike today and moved the Supreme Court seeking criminal contempt proceedings against the leaders of the agitation for disobeying the court’s order that pilots from both erstwhile Air India and Indian Airlines should train on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
Despite Delhi High Court declaring the strike illegal yesterday, the pilots said their agitation would continue. Eight international flights and at least six domestic flights, which would have continued as international flights, were cancelled today. Six flights of AI’s low-cost arm, Air India Express, were also cancelled.
Services from Delhi to Chicago, Frankfurt, Shanghai, Paris and Toronto, and from Mumbai to Jeddah, Riyadh and Newark were cancelled. Twelve international arrivals in Delhi were cancelled, according to the airport website.
AI claimed passengers were accommodated in hotels and put on other flights, but the relief did not appear to reach all passengers, who also complained of a lack of information.
The airline today stopped bookings for westbound flights until May 15. Passengers can postpone, advance or cancel their tickets for travel up to May 14 at no extra cost.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said long-haul operations would remain affected for some time. “If they (pilots) are not willing to follow the court order, why would they listen to me,” he said. Singh reaffirmed the government’s willingness to talk.
The pilots today sought the intervention of Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“It is a matter of life and death and career for the pilots. The AI management did not honour its commitments,” Jitendra Awhad, president of the Indian Pilots’ Guild, the union heading the strike, said.
The agitating pilots don’t want pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines to train on the Dreamliners, the first of which is likely to be inducted this month. They want the exclusive right to fly all long-haul routes, including those on which the Dreamliners will fly, and travel first class when on duty.
In Parliament, the opposition accused the government of committing a series of blunders, including the AI merger, and expressed concern over private airlines raising fares to “fleece” passengers. (With PTI)