Ex-minister killed the goose?

Air passengers stranded at the ticket counters at IGI Airport in New Delhi as flight services were disrupted due to the pilots’ strike. PTI

Expressing anguish at what has been going on vis-à-vis the AI Management and the pilots since 2007, Reddy told Deccan Herald that at the end of the day, “you will feel sorry for the pilots”, as the powers that be were ‘teasing and playing’ with their staff for too long.

Laying the charge for the present mess in AI at the doorstep of the former Union civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, for some of his alleged policies and attitudes which will continue to be felt for some more time, Reddy said the crux of the pilots issue is that “salaries cannot be related to the number of flying hours.”

While sympathising with the plight of air passengers due to the strike, Reddy agreed that nobody would really want a strike. But the pilots’ problem had to be sympathetically understood, he said. If the AI management “cannot give their pilots the minimum hours statutorily required to be flown, then it is not their (pilots’) fault,” said the APAI Chief.
Operating losses higher

Referring to the privatisation policy, Reddy said the AI management does not have the required number of flights now as over a period of time “33 routes have been sacrificed” to new private players in aviation. So, the number of hours AI pilots will get to fly will automatically get reduced. Then how could the statutory minimum flying hours be fulfilled, he asked, defending the AI pilots who struck work.

Reddy admitted that the strike had affected the AI’s “brand image”. But who is responsible for it, he counter-posed. The AI pilots do respect the courts and the travelling public, but they were not even given a proper hearing by the AI authorities, he said.

While Reddy does not rule out the possibility of “a ploy to kill the national air carrier”, in the same breath was quick to add that it was not possible to shut down or sell off AI.
The debt burden itself came to a massive Rs.40,000 crore with a lot of international banks involved in it, Reddy pointed out to buttress his argument.

The irony is that while the loss from the strike is placed at Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore a day, by running the airlines, AI was incurring a loss of Rs 15 crore on an average daily, said Reddy. But all these issues have to be addressed squarely and a remedy found, he urged.

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