Air India to hire more pilots as strike continues

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Published: June 7, 2012

Air India 787. Courtesy, Boeing

The Indian minister of civil aviation and Air India (AI) management have announced a contingency plan to help the airline resume full operations after an ongoing pilot strike has crippled the airline (ATW Daily News, May 23).

The plan, outlined by minister Ajit Singh at a press conference in Delhi, centers around hiring about 90 more pilots and launching new flights to Hong Kong, Seoul and Osaka over the next six months. The operational changes will be followed by an equity injection for the loss-making carrier.

The move virtually shuts the door on the striking union, the Indian Pilots Guild, whose 400 members have been reporting in sick for the past month.

The airline is set to take delivery of its first of three Boeing 787 aircraft later this month (ATW Daily News, March 22). Airline officials told ATW the Dreamliners will be flown on domestic routes between Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru for about three months until the pilots have enough training hours on the aircraft. The 787s will then be deployed on the India-UK route in the winter schedule. The striking pilots want to be given rights to fly the aircraft ahead of their brethren from the former Indian Airlines.

The government’s hardened stance also paves the way to implement the Dharmadhikari committee report on airline integration. The report was submitted by retired judge Dharmadhikari to the government last week. It has not been made public, but officials say the report outlines ways to establish parity among employees. Most of the 31,000 employees are likely to be forced to take wage cuts when the report is implemented. Many have not received paychecks for the past four months.

Singh also ruled out all talk of privatizing the airline. The pilot’s agitation has fueled calls to privatize the airline so tougher action can be taken.

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