Interlocutors from the aviation ministry and representatives of Air India pilots on Friday began a third round of informal talks to resolve the impasse as the strike which crippled the carrier's domestic operations entered the 10th day with the cancellation of 185 flights.
"Talks are on to resolve the issues. We are very hopeful that the representatives from both sides would find a common ground to reach an end to this deadlock soon," a ministry official said.
According to the official, the initial stand by both the sides has mellowed and the talks are fast reaching a conclusion to end the impasse that has caused cancellation of 1,470 flights and a revenue loss of Rs. 120 crore since the pilots went on strike from midnight April 26 demanding equal pay for Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots in the merged entity.
"Some internal arrangements, new solutions and other constructive methods to satisfy the demands of both the sides, including the management and the pilots, are being contemplated and discussed with both the sides. Since Wednesday, the talks have progressed a lot," the official said.
Meanwhile, Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) general secretary Captain Rishab Kapoor said that the talks were on, but the main demand on pay parity remained the same.
"Our demands are the same and we want them to be implemented but the ministry should also be complimented for showing willingness and understanding to resolve the issues by the means of talks and discussions," he added.
Informal talks were started Wednesday when representatives of the pilots met aviation ministry officials.
The ministry's team is headed by Joint Secretary PN Sukul.
Earlier, officials at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, headquarters of the civil aviation ministry, failed to resolve the impasse for two continuous days, as the pilots remained adamant on their demand for immediate pay parity with Air India pilots, even though the matter was to be addressed by a four-member committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice D.N. Dharmadhikari.
Meanwhile, the airline said it cancelled 185 flights Friday on its domestic network and is operating around 40 flights on the metro routes with large-bodied aircraft. This apart, 100-odd flights of budget carrier Alliance Air have also been deployed.
The airline said it has re-started its ticket bookings for select routes, including major metros and regional networks. Earlier, Air India had cancelled ticket bookings on its entire national network till May 4.
"Tickets are available now on major routes, including metros and some of the regional destinations. We had stopped bookings to ensure that no backlog remains," an Air India official with the operations arm told IANS.
Air India has also hired 18 aircraft from Kingfisher Airlines and Air Arabia.
"We are planning to lease more aircraft which will come with pilots and crew," the official added.
Air India also has posted on its website a tender notice for wet lease of more aircraft with crew.
The strike has led to the cancellation of 1,470 flights and a revenue losses of Rs 120 crore and has left thousands of flyers across the country stranded.