Disruption of operations to the seven prime international destinations in North America and Europe may be a blessing in disguise for the bleeding Air India (AI).
The national carrier lost a staggering Rs 832 crore in 2011-12 — nearly 50% of its operational losses — by operating flights to these seven long-haul routes including New York, Chicago, Toronto, Newark, London, Frankfurt and Paris. AI operates nine daily flights on these routes.The airline’s total operational losses during 2011-12 stood at Rs 1,734 crore.
It operates 400-odd flights daily to around 100 destinations.
Flights on long-haul routes are operated by the agitating AI pilots who say they are being unfairly treated.
“None of the seven routes even meet the basic cost of operations,” said an AI official. “Instead of volunteering for a pay-cut they have struck work during the peak travel season.”
An AI captain earns anywhere around Rs 6-12 lakh a month.
“AI pilots are being too selfish when they very well know the routes they fly are bleeding the heaviest,” said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert and a former Indian Airlines (IA) pilot, who drew a salary of Rs 10,652 a month as a training captain (the highest grade for a pilot) in 1989.
Pilot demands, he said, were very unreasonable and the government should take strong action and put an end to this constant threats of strikes.
On the New Delhi-London route, AI lost Rs 220 crore and on the Mumbai-Heathrow route, it lost R145 crore. Losses on the Delhi-Toronto route were Rs 164 crore, while on the New Delhi-Paris route, it was Rs 112 crore.
“The airlines gives them a lot,” said Ranganathan. “Pilots get to stay in five-star hotels at outside stations and spend 2-3 nights for every flight they operate.
Transport facilities, too, are provided by the company. To add to this they are demanding first-class travel! To demand such things when the airline is losing so much money is being too unfair and selfish.”