Pilot strike grounds Air India flights

Thousands of passengers stranded after 150 pilots call in sick in dispute over promotions and training.

    Many international flights in and out of India have been grounded since pilots from Air India went on indefinite strike.

    About 150 pilots of the national carrier have called in sick since Monday night, officials said on Wednesday.

    Thousands of passengers have been stranded.

    The pilots are frustrated at a lack of a suitable timeline for promotion opportunities.

    They are also protesting a policy that pilots taken on from a 2007 merger with Indian Airlines also receive training on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

    The striking pilots demanded they get priority for the training on the new plane, which is to join the Air India fleet at the end of May.

    The Delhi High Court issued an order restraining the pilots from going on strike or reporting sick but it was not clear when the pilots would return to work, news reports said.

    Pilots fired

    The Air India management fired 10 pilots on Wednesday soon after the court gave its order, broadcaster NDTV reported.

    It had also fired 10 pilots on Tuesday, mostly leaders of the Indian Pilots Guild, the union spearheading the strike.

    The government has also withdrawn recognition of the union.

    Ajit Singh, the aviation minister, said the strike was illegal and demanded the pilots return to work.

    "We are open to discussion, but discussion and disruption cannot go together," Singh told NDTV.

    The government had recently announced a $6bn bailout package for the ailing state-run airline.

    The airline owes about $500m to oil companies, $240m to airports, and nearly $1bn in compensation to Boeing as payment for a delayed delivery of its 787 Dreamliner jets.

    Jitendra Ahwad, a representative of the Indian Pilots Guild, said the strike was likely to continue through Sunday, NDTV reported.

    Stranded passengers said they were not given prior information of flight cancellations and had spent hours at the airports in New Delhi and Mumbai.

    The carrier operates 50 international flights every day and has 500 pilots who fly international routes.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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