Government to again hold talks with striking pilots


New Delhi : A two-member team of the civil aviation ministry will hold informal talks with members of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) again Thursday, day nine of the strike that has crippled Air India operations.

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The ministry’s team is headed by Joint Secretary P.N. Sukul to see how to get the pilots back to stations, with their strike forcing the cancellation of 1,100 flights during the past eight days and resulting in a loss of Rs.85 crore.

“We are happy we finally met,” said Rishab Kapur, general secretary of the association that claims to represent nearly 800 pilots. “We moving forward in a positive direction. We will meet again tomorrow,” he said after the informal talks Wednesday.

But officials at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, the headquarters of the civil aviation ministry, said the pilots were unwilling to budge from their original stand of immediate pay parity, even though the matter was to be addressed by a special committee.

Their reference was to the four-member expert committee on human resource matters under by former Supreme Court judge, Justice D.N. Dharmadhikari, that had begun functioning since April 25.

The airline, meanwhile, reopened bookings on some specified routes till May 8, having leased 18 aircraft from Kingfisher and Air Arabia, mainly for domestic operations. “We are planning to lease more aircraft,” an official said.

Thursday again saw the cancellation of nearly 220 domestic flights, with operations restricted mainly to the trunk routes between metros. The airline operates around 260 domestic flights.