New Delhi/Mumbai, May 16 Air India tried to stabilise its international operations by clubbing flights to destinations in Europe and the US as the pilots’ strike continued for the eighth day, leading to cancellation of 10 more flights.
“We are trying to operate a minimum number of international operations by clubbing flights to destinations in Europe and the US,” a senior Air India official with the operations arm told.
“We have clubbed Delhi-Paris flights with those of Delhi-JFK (John F. Kennedy airport at New York). So, the flight has left Delhi and will land in Paris and then go onwards to New York and from there back to Delhi. We are monitoring the situation and informing the passengers in advance.”
The carrier’s low-cost international wing, Air India Express, cancelled four flights. The ongoing strike and subsequent flight cancellations by the airline have disrupted holiday and other travel plans of hundreds of people.
The airline has lost more than Rs.150 crore in the last eight days due to a grounded fleet, ticket cancellations and unused labour.
“The total losses in the week is around Rs.150 crore. We have faced ticket cancellation, unused labour and a bulk of our 777s fleet being grounded,” said the official.
The airline has stopped bookings on some of its ultra long-haul routes till May 15, effectively cancelling more than 15 flights per day to major sectors such as the US, Europe, and some other destinations like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
In a related development, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh came under opposition fire in parliament. Singh was served a privilege notice by opposition parties for “making policy statement outside when parliament is in session”.
The notice was given by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), and the Left parties.
Basudeb Acharia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said the minister had indicated on a TV channel that Air India would be privatised.
Trouble started for the airline May 8 when pilot-members of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) took mass sick leave protesting the move to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.
The pilots had earlier said they were open to talks. But the government has not till now accepted the offer, saying there would be no negotiations till the pilots returned to work. The airline has also moved petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.
The apex court will hear the petition along with special leave petition (SLP) filed earlier by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), the union of erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots. Air India and Indian Airlines were officially merged into a single corporate entity on Feb 27, 2011.