Pilots want to meet minister for dialogue

May 25, 2012, 03:48 IST | IANS

The agitating pilots of Air India Thursday sought a meeting with Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh to end the 17-day-old strike that has crippled the airline's international operations.

"We have sent a letter to the minister seeking a meeting with him, so that we can explain our situation to him personally. The letter was delivered to his aide," Rohit Kapahi, committee member, Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), told IANS.

"We want a chance to put across our views to him in a fair and transparent manner, so that we can find a way to end the impasse. But till now we have not received any reply."

The letter, which was sent to Singh on behalf of IPG's general secretary E.A. Kapadia, said "an earnest dialogue will help resolve all issues in the interest of the country, the airline and its employees".

The IPG also pointed out that despite the on-going agitation, it requested one of its eight recently returned Boeing 787-trained pilots not to join the stir and instead go to Seattle May 25 to take delivery of the new aircraft joining the Air India fleet.

On Wednesday, Singh had appealed to pilots to return to work unconditionally and assured them that no victimisation would follow. He said that the 101 sacked pilots will be reinstated on a case-by-case basis.

"We have taken back one sacked pilot. But taking back sacked pilots will be decided on a case-by-case (basis). First they have to come back to work unconditionally," the minister had told IANS.

The pilots have said they will end their strike if the sacked colleagues are taken back and the management starts negotiations on the issues raised by them.

The strike has left the national carrier with a revenue loss of Rs.270 crore.

"Losses are around Rs.270 crore on account of ticket cancellations, unused labour and bulk of Boeing-777 fleet being grounded," a senior Air India official told IANS.

"Losses per day are being contained to downwards of Rs.10 crore in the current contingency plan," he added.

Air India, however, says it has enough executive pilots who are not on strike to operate long-haul destinations in the US and Europe.

"An interim schedule has been decided keeping into account the economics, load factor and importance of the destination," the official added.

Air India is now operating a bare minimum number of flights by clubbing flights to Europe and the US.

The beleaguered airline has come out with a truncated interim schedule for June. It will effectively drop seven international destinations from its regular routine like Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto.

Accordingly, between June 2 and 30, only 38 services will operate instead of the regular 45.

"We have deployed the Airbus family of aircraft including A320, A321 and A330 for nearby destinations," the official said.

Trouble started May 8 when pilot-members of IPG took mass sick leave, protesting the move to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.

The pilots want exclusive flying rights on Boeing 787 aircraft, payment of arrears from 2007, travel on first class when not working, and the right to be promoted as commanders within six years.

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