Seven flights of Air India Express were cancelled with about 12 pilots of Air India's budget carrier reporting sick as negotiations between a section of pilots and the management over career progression continued through the day today.
However, not a single flight of the parent airline was disrupted, an Air India spokesperson said.
The meeting between the representatives of the Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG) and senior management continued till late this evening, with the latter hoping that "a solution will be arrived at shortly". Maintaining that Air India's flight operations were running normally, the spokesperson said the management was already in discussions with the IPG and was "confident of finding an early solution to the issue".
Air India operated its full schedule of over 425 flights both yesterday and today, airline sources said. However, at least seven flights of the budget carrier, Air India Express, were cancelled as about a dozen pilots reported sick, the sources said. Most of these pilots belong to the pre-merger Air India who were transferred to the low-cost carrier about two years ago.
The sources said all efforts were being made to maintain the AI Express services to and from the Gulf due to the pre-Eid rush in passenger traffic. The sectors affected included those in East and Southeast Asia, they said. The pilots, owing allegiance to the IPG which has pilots of the erstwhile Air India as its members, have been at loggerheads with the management charging it with adopting discriminatory attitude against them vis-a-vis their erstwhile Indian Airlines counterparts.
As many as 101 AI pilots, owing allegiance to IPG, have sent a signed letter to the management threatening to quit, saying they were "compelled to seek a no-objection certificate so that we may consider seeking employment elsewhere".
They claimed that they felt "cheated by the management's unfair and discriminatory decisions, leading to a complete stall of our career progression". The IPG represents around 200 pilots of the pre-merger Air India, while the Indian Commercial Pilots Association that had gone on strike in April-May this year represents around 1,400 pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines. Reacting to the protest, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said, "There is no deadlock.
Air India management is in talks with their association. We are trying to resolve it. We can find a way out". Meanwhile, the IPG filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court seeking a stay on the alleged discriminatory actions of the management. The matter is likely to be heard tomorrow by a vacation bench, an IPG official said. The IPG threat came ahead of the launch of a training programme for pilots to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliners from November three.
The first of these aircraft is expected to join Air India by December. A major grievance of the IPG is the management's decision to train pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines and those of AI for the Boeing 787s. The IPG wants that only pilots of erstwhile AI should be trained on these aircraft which are meant to be flown on long-haul international routes. IPG has been maintaining that the management, by taking such decisions, was "pre-empting the outcome of the Justice Dharmadhikari panel which is yet to submit its report." This committee is going into the entire gamut of HR issues relating to the merger of the two state-run carriers.