Air India’s chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav on Sunday blamed the past administration, including the political leadership, for its ills as he appealed to striking pilots, whose stir entered fifth day, to return to work.
He described as “illegal” the strike by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association but was cryptic in his message to employees about the national carrier’s financial health.
“All actions spoken of are unforgivable but occurred many years ago, for which the current administration cannot be held responsible,” he said.
“We all condemn corruption in public life, and culprits must be punished,” said Jadhav, a career bureaucrat from the IAS.
Withdrawal of operations from profitable routes, acquisition of 111 aircraft by the loss-making carrier and mounting losses after the Indian Airlines’ (IA) merger with Air India are among the issues raised by the striking pilots.
“The CMD seems to point a finger at the ill-conceived merger of AI and IA as well as the previous minister and the management,” said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a Chennai-based aviation expert. “But, Jadhav has been part of the airline’s steep decline in the past two years. He can’t absolve himself.”
AI barely managed to operate 10% of its 320 daily flights on Sunday.
The director general of civil aviation (DGCA), the industry regulator, has called a meeting with the chiefs of private airlines on Monday after reports that ticket prices had zoomed following the pilot strike.
While Jadhav asked the pilots to resume work, they blamed an “adamant” AI management for the standoff.
Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said his party suspected that the present “mismanagement” of Air India may be a ploy to shut it down and demanded that the PM find out and tell the nation who was responsible for it.
(With HTC inputs)