Pilots strike 90 pc flights cancelled

New Delhi: Air India today cancelled 90 per cent of its domestic flights on the sixth day of the strike by its pilots even as all eyes were now on the Delhi High Court which will take up criminal proceedings against the agitators.

"We have curtailed 90 per cent of our domestic operations and plan to operate just 40 of the 320 daily flights. This curtailment is likely to continue till the strike is withdrawn," a Air India spokesperson said.

The airline management is sticking to its stand that they would hold "no talks with the striking pilots till get back to their work."

Pilots said they were open to the talks and will withdraw the strike if the management gives them assurances about the resolution of their grievances in a time-bound manner.

With no side ready to budge from their stated positions, all eyes are now set on the Delhi High Court which will take up Contempt of Court proceeding against leaders of Indian Commercial Pilot`s Association (ICPA), including its president Captain A S Bhinder and General Secretary Captain Rishabh Kapur.

Yesterday, Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav sent an SMS to all airline employees asking them to persuade the pilots to return to work and the negotiating table, saying the issues they were raising "occurred many years ago, for which the current administration cannot be held responsible."

"Risking our airline`s survival at this time is criminal," Jadhav said in his SMS.

"We all condemn corruption in public life, and culprits must be punished", AI CMD said, adding "all actions spoken of (by the pilots) are unforgivable".

In Mumbai, pilots took out a candle-light march at Gateway of India last evening demanding immediate ouster of Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav, alleging that the management`s unwillingness to invite them for talks was a part of his hidden agenda to shut down the airline and privatise it.

About 800 pilots, belonging to the erstwhile Indian Airlines, have gone on strike. Of the total number of 1,200 pilots, 400 belong to the Indian Pilots Guild of the erstwhile Air India, mostly operating international flights.

The ICPA has been demanding pay parity with their Air India colleagues, better working conditions and demanding withdrawal of sack orders against their leaders.

Since the strike began on Tuesday, the AI management has sacked nine pilots including ICPA president A S Bhinder and general secretary Rishabh Kapur besides suspending six others.