Cong asks AI pilots to withdraw their strike

New Delhi: Disapproving of the on-going strike by Air India pilots, Congress today asked them to realise their "folly" and immediately withdraw it, saying they are "stretching the patience" of even those Parliamentarians, who always batted for strengthening the airline.

"By continuing the strike, the pilots or rather a section of pilots, are stretching the patience of even those Parliamentarians" who have always fought for taking Air India to its earlier strong position, party spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters here. He said that if the Air India pilots continue their strike, then the support for them will wear thin and will weaken the forces standing for them in the public eye.

Replying to questions, Tewari, at the same time, acknowledged that there are indeed some "legacy issues" with Air India, which the government is trying to address, when pointed out that there are allegations it was the policies of the government in last eight years that pushed the airlines into such a mess.

"Continuing strike by a section of Air India pilots is indeed very distressing. Both the government and Parliament have walked the extra mile to help Air India alleviate its distressful financial condition. The strike is causing a loss of Rs 10 crore a day and the airlines had to suspend its long distance flights," Tewari said.

He said that such a scenario not only affects the earning of the airlines and causes inconvenience to passengers but also hits the brand equity of Air India. "Indian Pilots Guild…. should realise the folly of their action and immediately withdraw the strike," Tiwari said, adding that if at all there are certain issues including those related to seniority, the government has said it is willing to talk to them.

Tewari parried a question if the government should consider getting out of such business. "It is an old debate….Is it the business of the government to do business? But then when it comes to connecting areas like Leh or the North East or rescuing people from outside India like it was done during the Iraq war or the Libyan crisis, Air India has played a significant role. "But that does not mean Air India pilots should be going on strike every now and then on one pretext or another," he said.