New Delhi/Mumbai: Three Air India pilots, who had reported sick, resumed duty Wednesday in the first sign of an end to the nine-day stir by over 200 pilots, whose union IPG said they were open to talks with the government to resolve the deadlock.
An Air India spokesperson said, "three sick pilots have resumed duty today", but the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), spearheading the agitation, claimed that they were not its members and accused the management of trying to create a rift and confusion among their ranks.
With Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh offering to hold talks unconditionally and promising that the airline would not be vindictive, the IPG said in a statement it was "open to meeting with officials of the management and/or Ministry at any place at any time in order to resolve these issues and bring an end to the current impasse."
Hit by the pilots stir, the airline put into operation curtailed international services to Europe and North America as part of a contingency plan. There was no end to the woes of passengers who either could not find a seat in another airline or found the ticket cost prohibitive.
"The strike continues. .... We don't want pilots to be martyred," IPG president and NCP MLA Jitendra Ahwad said when asked whether they were willing to call off their agitation that has led to a revenue loss of over Rs 150 crore to the loss-making carrier besides causing inconvenience to passengers.
Singh had Tuesday promised to hear the pilots' grievances and appealed to them to return to work, saying they had the "last chance" to revive the "almost bankrupt" airline. The pilots' stir had figured in Parliament with members, cutting across party lines, urging the protestors to get back to work.
The airline has already sacked 71 striking pilots, who have been protesting against rescheduling of training programme of Dreamliner and issues related to their career progression.
The airline curtailed and clubbed many of its flights to the US and Europe to stabilise international operations.
It operated Delhi-Paris-New York (JFK), Delhi-Frankfurt- Chicago flights, apart from those on Delhi-Shanghai and Delhi-London routes.
Meanwhile, Air India in a statement said the airline is continuing to maintain normal operations of its domestic services and they remained unaffected despite agitation by a section of the pilots.
The airline operated 384 flights to various destinations in its network and has maintained an average on time performance of more than 70 percent Tuesday, it said.
To minimize the inconvenience to its international passengers, Air India, has announced a contingency schedule for its international operations between May 16 and May 20.
Under the plan, the airline will operate daily return services on Delhi-Paris-New York, Delhi-Frankfurt-Chicago and Delhi-London sectors with Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft, it said.
First Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 21:38