AI pilots threaten to quit, 10 flights cancelled

New Delhi: As many as 23 Air India pilots reported sick leading to cancellation of 10 international flights and the state-owned airline could face more trouble with around 100 pilots threatening to quit. The pilots belonging to the Indian Pilots` Guild(IPG), which has pilots of the erstwhile Air India as its members, are headed for a confrontation charging the management on Monday with adopting discriminatory attitude against them and stalling their career progression.

The threat to quit could hit Air India`s international operations and comes on the back of cancellation of the 10 flights of its low budget arm "Air India Express" in the last seven days. Air India sources said that 10 commanders and 13 co-pilots reported sick during this period.

The Gulf sector remained unaffected but the Kolkata-Dhaka and Chennai-Singapore sectors were hit, the sources said. The threat to quit came four days ahead of the launch of a training programme for pilots to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the first of which is expected to join the airline by December.

In a letter to Air India CMD Rohit Nandan, over 100 pilots, owing allegiance to the IPG said they were "compelled to seek a No Objection Certificate so that we may consider seeking employment elsewhere".

Copies of the letter were also sent to Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi and other officials, besides the Regional Labour Commissioner, Mumbai. Reacting to the development, an Air India spokesperson said, "We have not received any strike notice so far or a notice for NOC formally from the IPG ".

One of the prime grievances of the IPG is the management`s decision to train pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines for the Boeing 787 Dreamliners. When contacted, Air India officials, requesting anonymity, said the IPG office-bearers were currently holding negotiations with the management and "we are hopeful of sorting out their issues".

The IPG represents around 200 pilots of the pre-merger Air India, while the Indian Commercial Pilots Association that had gone on strike in April-May this year represents around 1,400 pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines. A total of 101 pilots signed the letter claiming they felt "cheated by the management`s unfair and discriminatory decisions, leading to a complete stall of our career progression", IPG sources said.