Air India strike enters fourth day, PM briefed


New Delhi : Civil Aviation Secretary N.M. Nambiar Tuesday briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the continuing deadlock between the Air India management and striking pilots that is now in its fourth day.

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A top aviation ministry official said Nambiar called on the prime minister at his residence to apprise him of the ongoing impasse at the national carrier.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Monday had urged the civil aviation ministry to ensure speedy resolution of the crisis in the cash-strapped national carrier.

“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.”

Earlier in the day, Nambiar had met representatives of other airlines asking them not to raise fares in light of the crisis and sought cooperation to accommodate stranded Air India passengers.

“I have asked them not to hike fares at this time, and also to accommodate those passengers whose flights were cancelled,” Nambiar told reporters here after meeting the representatives including Air India chairman Arvind Jadhav.

A section of Air India pilots went on a strike Saturday in protest against the cut in their productivity linked incentives (PLI).

The strike forced the carrier to cancel 50 flights Tuesday, including nine international flights.

After the meeting, Jadhav told reporters that the cash-strapped national carrier lost over Rs.84 crore in the first three days of the strike. However, in a statement Monday night, he denied any possibility of a lockout in Air India.

At least 180 pilots have reported sick in the past three days. The airline has increased the PLI paid to its employees from Rs.1,000 crore to Rs.1,500 crore in the past two years, Jadhav said.

“We have deputed additional staff including senior officials of the ranks of general managers across various airports to ensure the passengers are shifted to other airlines’ flights,” he said, adding: “We have also opened special cash counters for refunding tickets.”

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

Talks between the senior executive pilots and Jadhav had ended inconclusively Monday.

An Air India official said the management was open to further talks and was likely to meet the pilots again Tuesday.