Normalcy in AI likely from tomorrow

Order for cut in PLI kept in abeyance; airline resumes bookings


An Air India pilot and an air-hostess ready to attend their duties after pilots called off their strike. R: Air India ticketing office reopens.

The pilots announced the withdrawal of their agitation following Tuesday’s announcement by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel that the order for reduction in the productivity-linked incentive (PLI), against which the strike call was given, had been kept in abeyance.

Patel had also warned that action would be taken if pilots failed to resume duty. The agitators had alleged that up to 70 per cent of their PLI was cut by the management without consulting them.

As most pilots did not report for duty, several flights, including those on key international routes, continued to be disrupted on Wednesday. Normalcy is likely to return only by Friday as some services may be affected on Thursday too. Sources said the pilots would report for duty once their roster was known.

Meanwhile, AI resumed bookings on Wednesday two days after its website showed “non-availability” of tickets. The airline had to stop bookings following uncertainty over the operations due to the strike. It had cancelled over 240 flights in the last four days resulting in a revenue loss of nearly Rs 100 crore.

Capt V K Bhalla, representative of the protesting pilots, announcing the withdrawal of the strike, said the pilots would join duty as soon as possible. “I apologise to the passengers for the inconvenience caused to them due to the agitation,” he said.

The issue of PLI allowance will now be decided by the AI board sub-committee comprising CMD, joint secretary and the financial adviser to the Civil Aviation Ministry, and it will submit its recommendations to the board.

Speaking to reporters after the pilots called off the strike, Praful Patel asked the cash-strapped national carrier to take steps to reduce its expenses and debts. He also disclosed that the government had in principle agreed to infuse funds up to Rs 5,000 crore into AI. The airline’s losses since last fiscal have been estimated to be over Rs 7,200 crore.

Government support

“The government’s support for AI doesn’t come without a rider. We have asked the carrier to cut costs,” Patel said.

Regarding the airline’s decision to cut wages, Patel said the management and workers should avoid taking unilateral decisions. He said a pilots’ committee would be formed to discuss the wage cut issue.

“There is no reason for any section of the employees to be unhappy. The committee of pilots will discuss pay cuts with the management,” he said.

Meanwhile, AI decided to operate six long-haul international flights on Thursday even as cancelling the Mumbai-New York and Delhi-New York flights.

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