Day IV | Air India cancels flights; pilots’ strike continues

Day IV | Air India cancels flights; pilots’ strike continues

New Delhi: Loss-making state-run Air India has suspended booking of tickets till further notice and decided to cancel a quarter of its international and domestic flights to cut down inconvenience caused to passengers by last minute cancellations in view of the ongoing agitation by the executive pilots.

“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," Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav told reporters here on Tuesday.

Around 250 pilots have refused to work since 26 September, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at airports.

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’s spokesman Jitender Bhargava said, “We are still operating services but we have suspended bookings for certain flights."

Since the strike began, Bhargava said about 40 flights out of the 200 scheduled were being cancelled daily.

Flights which have been affected include flights 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.

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.

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, India’s 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.