New Delhi: State-run Air India has suspended booking of tickets as a result of a strike by its pilots which has already seen a quarter of its flights being cancelled, the chairman of the carrier said on Tuesday.
Around 250 pilots have been striking since 26 September after the loss-making airline announced plans to cut pay incentives as part of a drive to bring down expenditure.
Arvind Jadhav, chairman and managing director of Air India, told reporters that the carrier had decided to suspend bookings to avoid last minute cancellations for passengers.
“We have suspended the booking of tickets till further notice in order to save the passengers from inconvenience caused by the cancellations of flights due to the agitation,” Jadhav was quoted as saying by the news agency Press Trust of India.
The strike, coming just days after protests by pilots of Jet Airways, underlines uneasy labour relations in a country often perceived as a difficult place to conduct business.
Air India has been struggling after it posted a $875 million loss in the fiscal year ended March and it has sought a government bailout.
In the last four days, about 40 domestic and international flights out of the 200 scheduled have been cancelled daily, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.
Flights which have been affected include those to New York, London, Chicago and Singapore as well as many domestic routes.
The pilots are protesting against the company’s plans to cut incentive pay to its employees by up to 50%, in a cost cutting measure affecting over 7,000 of its employees.
The pay cut is applicable to all senior staff, including top management.
Talks between the pilots and management reached stalement late on Monday, with aviation minister Praful Patel urging the pilots to return to work.
“We understand that there are concerns among the employees ... but at the same it is imperative to understand that Air India in its current form cannot absorb the high cost structure ...,” Patel told reporters.
A World Bank report on ease of doing business ranked India a lowly 122 of 181 countries and suggested greater flexibility in labour laws would help create more jobs and reduce poverty.
Earlier this month, Jet Airways was hit by a strike, when 760 of its pilots protested against the sacking of four of their colleagues for indiscipline after they tried to form a union.