In a move that has raised eyebrows, Air India is set to re-employ seven pilots it had sacked for participating in a two-month strike in 2012 that had crippled the airline’s international operations and led to heavy losses.
The 58-day strike of the airline’s wide-body fleet’s pilots remains the longest in the company’s history.
The airline management and the aviation ministry had come down hard on the agitating pilots and dismissed 12 of them. They were part of the Indian Pilots’ Guild, the association that belonged to the erstwhile Air India. The pilot union was also banned.
Sources said seven pilots had petitioned they be re-employed. “These pilots, who were part of the B777 fleet, have agreed to pay for their training and other costs,” said an official. The matter was under consideration, he said.
“The move raises serious doubts at a time when the firm is thinking of taking strict action against the pilots disrupting flights,” said an aviation ministry official.
Air India chief Ashwani Lohani warned of “exemplary disciplinary action” against the agitating pilots of the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association last week after flight operations were disrupted.
At a juncture when the airline is looking to achieve a turnaround, these acts are “not acceptable” and will not be tolerated under any circumstances, he said.