AI may suspend ops as talks fail; PMO intervenes

Air India may suspend its operations for about 15 days even as the PMO has asked for speedy resolution in the matter.

Mumbai/New Delhi: Beleaguered Air India, which carries about 30,000 passengers each day, mulled suspending its operations for about 15 days from Monday midnight after fresh talks with the striking Executive pilots failed to break the three-day deadlock over cut in perks.

Sources in the airline in Delhi and Mumbai said tonight the state-owned carrier has stopped accepting bookings and that it was seriously considering suspending the operations. A formal order to suspend the flights is being discussed and expected to be issued soon, sources said.

A quick search on the airline website threw up the sign
of `no seats available` for all classes.

The cash-strapped airline operates around 310 flights
(domestic--220 and international-90).

"The booking agents have been told not to accept any
bookings from tonight till October 15," a source closed to the
developments said in Mumbai.

PMO intervenes

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister`s Office on Monday night urged the Civil Aviation Ministry to ensure "speedy resolution" of the crisis in the cash-strapped national carrier.

The PMO has asked Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel to ensure "a speedy resolution of the crisis", a PMO source told an agency.

"We do not want the airlines to be hijacked by pilots like the way Jet was, which led to a lot of passenger discomfort," said a PMO source.

The strike entered the third day Monday, forcing cancellation of at least 14 flights, including two international flights, out of the national capital alone.

Stalemate on

The Air India management held second round of talks in as many days with the striking pilots in New Delhi but the stalemate did not yield any solution.

The two-hour long talks ended in a "stalemate", said Delhi-based Captain V K Bhalla, who is leading the agitation of pilots. Air India spokesman Jitendra Bhargava also said the talks remained "inconclusive". The pilots are expected to be derostered and some of them are likely to be sacked.

At least 40 flights were cancelled across the country today as some pilots, majority of them Delhi-based, continued to report "sick" to protest cut in Productivity-Linked Incentive (PLI).

The management is apparently taking recourse to suspension of flights after scores of pilots of the erstwhile international carrier Air India before the merger began reporting `sick`.

Air India operates its operations under the holding company, National Aviation Company of India Limited (Limited), formed after the merger of Air India and erswthile Indian Airlines in 2007. The airline posted an estimated 875-million-dollar loss in the last financial year.

However, despite the merger, the two air-carriers still operates with two different codes, AI and IC. While Air India operates on long-haul international sectors, Indian Airlines, besides flying domestic also operates flights across Gulf countries.

Besides, its low-cost arm, Air India Express operates across Gulf, South East Asian routes.

The Contention

At the talks held by Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav in New Delhi today, the pilots remained adamant on their demand that their three months of flying allowance and PLI, which are "due", should be paid in full before they resume their duties.

At least 40 flights were cancelled across the country as some pilots, majority of them Delhi-based, continued to report "sick" to protest cut in Productivity-Linked Incentive (PLI).

After the talks, Air India said that Flying Allowance and PLI for July would be paid immediately and that "the schedule for payment of salary and PLI for the coming months would be finalised in consultation with the financial institutions."

The agitating pilots, however, were not satisfied with it
although they expressed readiness to hold further talks.

"We are not begging in front of the CMD, we are asking for our own money," Bhalla said, adding, "There is no question of our returning to work until and unless we are paid each and every penny of three months` salary and allowances."

Bureau Report (With Inputs from IANS)