Air India blinks, but stir still on | india | Hindustan Times
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Air India blinks, but stir still on

india Updated: Sep 28, 2009 01:20 IST
HT Correspondents
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National carrier Air India on Sunday evening announced it was setting up a committee to re-examine the controversial order that has sparked off a strike by its executive pilots.

But the pilots still refused to get back to work until the order was entirely withdrawn.

Sunday saw widespread disruption of Air India flights, with around 30 of them being cancelled as more executive pilots called in sick and refused to report for duty, to protest the order. Air India officially admitted to 21 cancellations.

The order, announced on September 23, had imposed pay cuts on the pilots. The step followed an austerity drive by the ailing airline, which ran up Rs 7,200 crore (Rs 72 billion) in losses last year.

The airline moved to reconsider the wage cut after howls of protest from passengers grew shrill. The strike had begun on Saturday when 13 flights were cancelled.

“The number of flights to be operated on Monday is yet to be decided, depending on passenger turnout and load factor,” said an Air India spokesman.

He said the airline was in talks with Jet Airways and IndiGo Air to carry its passengers, if the need arises.

The official figure puts the cut in productivity-linked incentives — called flying allowance for pilots — at 25 to 50 per cent.

Bilots say there are hidden factors that make the cut deeper, at about 70 per cent.

Air India chairman Arvind Jadhav met executive pilots in Mumbai.

Captain VK Bhalla, representing executive pilots in Delhi, said the protest leave was against non-payment of allowances for three months and steep cuts.

“The protest continues. We want a complete reversal of the order,” he said.

“If the pilots do not report to work, the worst case scenario will be a lockout,” said a Ministry of Civil Aviation official. “There was one in the 1970s which lasted 17 days.”

An aide to civil aviation minister Praful Patel, however, said such a step was improbable.