Anationwide protest called by worker unions of state-run Airports Authority of India failed to cause any immediate flight disruptions that could push the government into negotiations with the workers.
The employees who skipped work are protesting the closure of airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad when new ones open through April.
Airport officials and airlines executives did express some concerns about the impact of a prolonged strike. “If the strike prolongs for the next few days, we will have to ask the armed forces for help, which we didn’t need today, as we had already hired staff to manage fire services,” said a spokesman for Mumbai International Airport Ltd (Mial), that runs India’s busiest airport.
Late Wednesday, there was no sign the strike could end soon. Civil aviation minister Praful Patel, making a statement in Parliament, said the government was obliged to close the old airports as part of a deal with the private operators who have built the two new airports, adding that employee interests at the old airports will be “fully protected”.
Services such as housekeeping, fire handling equipment, besides engineering and maintenance, are largely under AAI purview at most airports.
The new Hyderabad airport will be opened by Congress party president Sonia Gandhi on Friday. Airport director R.K. Singla said it drew personnel from the Hakimpet Air Force Station for fire services to ensure there was no disruption.
In Bangalore, passenger and cargo movement were not disrupted as air traffic control, runways and the fire services are handled by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Tarun Shukla in New Delhi, P.R. Sanjai in Mumbai, C.R. Sukumar in Hyderabad and K. Raghu in Bangalore contributed to this story.