Air India pilots call off strike, apologise to passengers


New Delhi : Air India pilots called off their five-day strike Wednesday following assurances from the civil aviation ministry that there would be no salary cuts.

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“We have received official communication from civil aviation minister (Praful Patel) and he himself has assured that there would be no salary cuts. So we immediately call off the strike,” said Captain V.K. Bhalla, a senior executive pilot who was spearheading the strike.

“We have no reason to not trust the civil aviation minister. I am asking all the pilots to come back on work. We would now fully cooperate with the management. We also apologise to passengers for the inconvenience caused,” Bhalla added.

“Captain V.K. Bhalla is not above the government of India,” he said at a crowded press conference.

The strike had begun Saturday with 180 Air India pilots going on sick leave to protest the cut in their PLI (productivity linked incentives).

Till Tuesday, day four of the strike, 100 flights had been cancelled. On Wednesday morning, 28 flights, including two international, had been cancelled.

Technical engineers and Mumbai-based pilots had also joined the strike, which was being led by the Delhi faction of the senior executive pilots.

The pilots had been protesting the cut in their wages, but the airline had maintained this was being done as it had reported losses of over Rs.7,200 crore since the last fiscal.

When asked about huge losses to Air India, Bhalla said the profitability of any airlines was directly related to fuel consumption. “We will advise the management on how to prevent wasteful expenditure,” he said. Giving an instance, he said if Air India was sponsoring a golf tournament the pilots would suggest that it should not do so.