Air India strike enters fourth day, 26 flights cancelled


New Delhi : At least 26 flights of Air India were cancelled Tuesday morning with the standoff between the management and striking pilots entering the fourth day, causing severe inconvenience to passengers.

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The airline has also suspended booking tickets for the next 15 days.

“We have deployed additional staff at airports across the country and will ensure that passengers are shifted to flights operated by other airlines,” a senior official of the carrier said Tuesday.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has urged the civil aviation ministry to ensure speedy resolution of the crisis in the cash-strapped national carrier, even as the possibility of a lockout, as threatened by the airline management, has been denied.

“We do not want the airlines to be hijacked by pilots like the way Jet was – which had led to a lot of passenger discomfort,” a source in the PMO said late Monday. “The civil aviation minister (Praful Patel) has also been asked to ensure a speedy resolution.”

Civil Aviation Secretary N.M. Nambiar has also called a meeting with the management of all airlines here at 11 a.m. to not just to resolve the Air India strike but to also see how such agitations can be avoided in the future, sources at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation also issued a stern warning to other airlines not to arbitrarily hike fares, after complaints by passengers. “We ae doing all that is possible to ensure passengers are not harassed,” said a senior official.

Meanwhile, Captain V.K. Bhalla, who represents the senior executive pilots of Air India, said the strike had been “thrust upon the pilots”. He charged the Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav of “trying to sabotage the airline” since May.

Air India management said it was open for further negotiations, after talks with the pilots ended inconclusively Monday, and that a decision on thorny issues like pilots’ incentives would be taken shortly.