Air travellers stranded as pilot strike hit flights
Moneylife Digital Team 11 May 2012

Aviation minister Ajit Singh says that the aviation industry and Air India are passing through a tough phase due to high price of ATF, high service tax along with airport charges. Why are Indigo, GoAir and SpiceJet less affected?

As the agitation by protesting pilots entered the fourth day on Friday, Air India's 12 international flights were cancelled even while civil aviation minister Ajit Singh hoped that the airline "does not enter into an ICU". Pilots from cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines also started reporting 'sick' due to which about 12 flights of the carrier were cancelled. Kingfisher pilots are 'sick' of the way the management is handling the issue of their salaries since past few months.

The minister also sympathised with the 'ailing' airlines saying that the aviation industry is going through a tough phase due to high price of ATF and high service tax. However, while all airlines are defaulting on payments, Indigo, the only profitable airline in the country, and privately-held GoAir have not defaulted on airport payments.

"All our long-haul flights to US, Europe, Riyadh and Jeddah have been cancelled," an Air India official said. This has been done due to non-availability of pilots who are on mass sick leave since Tuesday, he added.

According to a PTI report, Air India's long overhaul flights to New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Toronto, Frankfurt, London and Paris from Delhi and Mumbai were cancelled. The national carrier has stopped taking bookings till 15th May on its flights to US, Europe and Riyadh.

With pilots remaining defiant, the Air India management had yesterday sacked nine more pilots.

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh expressed hope that pilots will "get well soon as they are sick. Air India is sick and I hope it doesn't reach ICU".

Noting that the aviation industry and Air India are passing through a tough phase due to high price of ATF, high service tax along with airport charges and others, Mr Singh said he will take up the issue with prime minister Manmohan Singh.

On the problems facing Kingfisher, he said, "Kingfisher is a private company and they will have to sort out their problem themselves."

"Kingfisher has been in trouble since some time. They have been facing some financial problems. Air India is even worse but it (Kingfisher) is a private company so they have to mobilise the resources by themselves," Mr Singh said.

"The main problem is how to make Air India stand on its feet, how to make it profitable and in that all the employees and their union will have to co-operate otherwise it will not stay afloat. They (airlines) have to realise that we do not raise fares for our personal interest. Air India will sink and with that all of us will sink," he said.

The civil aviation minister stressed that discipline has to be maintained if Air India has to survive.

"All unions have to.... rise above their personal interests. We are willing to discuss with any union but they should call off the strike, especially when it is vacation time. If Air India does not stay afloat, all their jobs will be at stake," he said.

Just two days ago, Mr Singh has said that all airlines from India, except two, have defaulted on paying airport charges. Indigo, the only profitable airline in the country and privately-held GoAir have not defaulted on airport payments, he said.

The government has initiated legal action against Kingfisher Airlines "towards dishonour of the cheques submitted" by the carrier, while Jet Airways and SpiceJet have been served notices on overdues, Mr Singh said.

According to a PTI report, Kingfisher pilots have been protesting since yesterday against non-payment of their due salary. Sources said a section of Kingfisher pilots have got their due salary, especially co-pilots but the captains have not been paid.

Meanwhile, following a warning from Kingfisher chief Vijay Mally for "acting firmly and decisively", and a meeting with management, a section of pilots from the carrier decided to call off their agitation. The management has once again assured the employees of remitting the January salaries by 15th May, and a part-payment of the February dues would follow soon. Earlier they were assured by the management that their salary for the month of January will be paid by 9th May but it did not happen due to which they started reporting sick.

Kingfisher Airlines has been facing financial troubles for almost a year now. The airline, which never made a profit since its inception in May 2005, reported a net loss of Rs444.26 crore in the December quarter.

Due to paucity of funds, Kingfisher now operates only 110 flights a day with a fleet of 20 aircraft as against 400 flights per day last year with 66 planes.

a v moorthi besides TIHAR
1 decade ago
This time AI Pilots and their Union by going for agitation ( not STRIKE as their leader Jitendra Ahwad claims repeatedly on TV)might have been trapped like the rat which fell for the eatable kept in the mouse trap and other AI staff beware, you would have already done more strikes than any other Airline staff in the entire world. If Ajit Singh is a chip of the old block Ch Charan Singh then AI Pilots will be hanged individually even if they try to hang together. Ajit Singh has nothing to lose. if he is dropped from cabinet on taking on AI Pilots it will one more nail in coffin of Congress in U.P. If strike fails it will be atleast a small gain for the Govt, as it will able to shout Govt is alive. As a tough action Govt should requisition services of IAF Pilots just like earlier once in 1970's then Air Chief P.C.Lal offered the services of IAF pilots when the Airlines Pilot went on unnecessary strike because toilets in the aircraft were not cleaned and stink was spreading inside, when Pilots very well knew that job needs to be done by one of their own brother from a different department . AI staff behave because you are dealing with a JAT boy .
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