New Delhi/Mumbai, May 21 The crisis in Air India raged on for the 13th day Sunday and the national carrier’s losses mounted to Rs.230 crore as the impasse between agitating pilots and the management continued.
“The loss due to ticket cancellations, unused labour and with the bulk of our Boeing-777 fleet grounded now stands at Rs.230 crore. Our losses per day stand between Rs.13-15 crore,” a senior official of Air India’s operations arm told.
“Under the contingency plan for international operations, we are operating a bare minimum number of international operations by clubbing flights to destinations in Europe and the US.”
According to the official, the agitating pilots, who are on a mass sick leave, are mandated to get a medical check-up done by doctors from the Indian Air Force after the completion of 14 days of their absence.
“Within the next two days, they (pilots) will be checked by Indian Air Force doctors. If they clear it and are actually sick, then it is valid, but if they fail the test and come out to be absolutely fine, then they can either join back or resign,” the official said.
The government may also further curtail Air India’s international operations if the strike continues.
“There is a proposal to further curtail international operations if they (pilots) do not come back or if they are joined by the executive class of pilots. If we don’t have pilots, how can we fly?” said the official.
The airline is already operating its international flights under a contingency plan through which it is clubbing flights to various destinations in the US and Europe.
The development comes a day after when Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh asked the striking pilots to resume work, saying the government is willing to listen to them.
He said he failed to understand what good the pilots were doing by going on strike, causing financial losses to the national carrier and leading to the harassment of thousands.
“When one goes on strike, there may be some reasons but there is no point in being adamant and holding a system to ransom,” he said.
The minister added that the Delhi High Court had ruled that the strike was illegal, “and pilots must abide by the law”.
The airline on its part to mitigate losses and to win back passenger trust has started a special scheme whereby passengers can advance, postpone or cancel their tickets without any extra charges till May 22.
The airline has deployed the Airbus family of aircraft such as A320, A321 and A330 for international routes.
It is operating only eight of its 17 Boeing-777 aircraft which are normally manned by the pilots belonging to Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), who are now on strike.
Trouble started for the airline May 8 when pilot-members of the IPG took mass sick leave, protesting the move to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.
The pilots have made four demands which include exclusive flying rights on Boeing 787 aircraft, payment of arrears from 2007 onwards, travel on first class when not working, and the right to be promoted as commanders within six years.