Air India crisis: 26 pilots sacked, court steps in
National carrier Air India sacked 26 more pilots who went on mass sick leave leading to several flight cancellations Wednesday, as the Delhi High Court stepped in to normalise operations by restraining pilots from going on strike.
"We have sacked 26 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," a senior Air India official told IANS.
The flag carrier had sacked 26 pilots on Tuesday and derecognised their union - Indian Pilots Guild (IPG).
The Delhi High Court attempted to restore operations and issued restraining orders on pilots from going on strike. The flag carrier had moved the court against the agitating pilots.
Trouble started 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.
On Wednesday, the airline had to cancel three international flights from Delhi and one from Mumbai.
"Till now in the day, four flights have been cancelled, including New Delhi-Singapore, New Delhi-New York, New Delhi-Frankfurt and Mumbai-Newark," the official said.
"We have called in reserve pilots and other flights are operating per schedule. Passengers are being updated about their flight status."
Sources in the pilots union claimed that the disgruntled aviators had reached out to the chief labour commissioner's (CLC) office. The IPG is likely to discuss the issue and the sacking of its senior pilots at a meeting later Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh slammed the agitation calling it illegal. "There are certain ways of even going on strike. The pilots may have grievances but they should have spoken to the management, to me and other well-wishers."
"How can they (pilots) go on strike when Air India is on the path of recovery and when it is not out of the woods," he asked.
Ajit Singh further said that while in an earlier order the Delhi High Court had upheld the contention that the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots cannot be trained on the Dreamliner, the Supreme Court had vacated the stay.
"How can the protesting pilots expect the government to go against the Supreme Court?"
Currently training for the first batch of pilot and crew members for the 787 is going on in Singapore. An aircraft like 787 requires around 10 pilots for operating a full day's schedule or a connecting long haul flight.
Air India had booked 27 Boeing 787s in 2006 in a mega deal for 68 aircraft from Boeing. The first of the 27 Boeing 787 aircraft which were ordered in 2006 for IPG cadre pilots before the merger in 2007 is expected to join the fleet at the end of the month.
Air India is only the third global airline after All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines to receive the fuel-efficient and eco-friendly aircraft.