AI likely to reopen international bookings

New Delhi: Air India, which is operating a curtailed global flight schedule due to the pilots` strike, is likely to reopen international bookings and firm up a fresh operating schedule by this weekend with the help of 130 executive pilots.

The airline said the three-week agitation by over 200 pilots has seen a drop in the number of its international passengers by about 3,000 and that its financial loss had gone up to over Rs 320 crore for this period. The Air India Board, which met here, considered the next steps to deal with the pilots` strike, spearheaded by the now derecognised Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), official sources said.

Air India is carrying out daily flights on long-haul sectors like Delhi-Paris-New York (JFK), Delhi-Frankfurt- Chicago, Delhi-London, Mumbai-London, Delhi- Tokyo and Delhi- Shanghai. These services can continue for several months, the sources said. Claiming that the impact of the strike on flight operations has not been substantial, the sources said the flight schedules have been firmed up in such a manner so that 130 executive pilots would be able to "carry on for months together".

The pilots can fly a maximum of 40 hours each week and 1,000 hours each year under the Flight Duty Time Limitation (FDTL) rules for duty timings and rest periods of the cockpit crew. "It will take several months for the executive pilots to reach 1,000 hour limit," the sources said. The entire passenger backlog has been cleared several days ago and there are no rollover passengers, they said. The airline Board also discussed the issue of compensation for delayed delivery of new-generation Boeing 787 Dreamliner from US manufacturer Boeing.