Mumbai: The Delhi high court said the action of pilots of Air India Ltd, who reported sick on Wednesday, was illegal. The airline firm fired another 26 pilots, taking the total to 36.
Nearly 250 pilots of trade union Indian Pilots’ Guild reported sick on Wednesday as part of a strike, following which Air India cancelled several of its flights to the US and Germany.
Left stranded: Passengers at the Mumbai International Airport on Wednesday after Air India cancelled flights to the US and Germany. By Mitesh Bhuvad/PTI
The high court, hearing a petition filed by national flag carrier seeking to restrain the pilots from stopping work, termed the strike as illegal, according to two airline executives, who declined to be named.
On Tuesday, Air India de-registered the guild and terminated the services of 10 executive committee members of the group after the pilots reported sick.
Guild president Jitendra Awhad said its lawyers will study the high court ruling before taking a decision.
At least 250 pilots reported sick as a part of the unrest, he said. An Air India executive said nearly 200 pilots did not appear for the duty.
The Delhi high court on Wednesday declared the strike by some Air India pilots illegal. Mint’s P.R. Sanjai looks at the standoff between management and pilots.
Air India chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan could not be immediately reached for comment.
The guild is demanding that training on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet planes be restricted to pilots belonging to the erstwhile Air India, which merged in 2007 with state-run Indian Airlines into a new entity called National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, later renamed Air India Ltd.
The Supreme Court had intervened in the matter and ruled that an equal number of pilots from Air India and Indian Airlines should receive training to fly the Dreamliner. But the Indian Pilots’ Guild maintained that the aircraft were ordered before the merger and so only Air India pilots should receive the training.
Aviation minister Ajit Singh said on Tuesday that the strike was illegal as a notice was not served. “Why have these pilots gone on strike without discussing with me or ministry officials?” Singh asked in an interview.
The high court has restrained pilots from “continuing with the illegal strike and reporting sick or staging demonstrations, dharnas, gheraos, etc.”, the carrier said in statement.
The guild is willing to meet Air India’s management and ministry officials to resolve the impasse, the group said in a statement.
“We are open to talks once the pilots withdraw the strike,” the minister said earlier in the day.
Air India has closed its bookings on West-bound flights and passengers are not opting for the carrier, according to Regi Philip, who runs Cosmos Agencies, a Mumbai-based travel agency.
“Air India has cancelled almost all West-bound flights. All Air India’s international flights of all sectors are delayed. Many passengers are stuck at various airports,” Philip said. “Flights operated by other carriers are flying full.”
Air India cancelled the following flights because of the strike: Delhi-New York-Delhi, Delhi-Toronto, Mumbai-Newark-Mumbai, Delhi-Singapore, Delhi-Chicago-Delhi and Delhi-Frankfurt-Delhi, according to information posted on its web site.
Air India has seen many industrial disputes in the past four years and lost Rs 200 crore due to a pilots’ strike in May 2011.
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