A day after six private airlines threatened to suspend operations on August 18, the strike plan seemed to be losing steam, with budget carrier IndiGo deciding to pull out.
The other five have also softened their stand, following a government statement that “appropriate action would be initiated if these private carriers suspended regular operations”.
<b1>"IndiGo appreciates the sentiments expressed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation that it understands the problems faced by the Indian aviation industry and that we should all engage in a dialogue with the ministry,” IndiGo Airlines president Aditya Ghosh said in a statement. “We wish to reassure them (passengers) that IndiGo will be operating its normal scheduled service on August 18, 2009.”
The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), the top body for airlines in the country, said in a statement on Saturday, “FIA members are not seeking charity or a bailout. They are merely seeking to be treated fairly.”
Civil aviation minister Praful Patel on Saturday made it clear that the “government would not financially help private carriers” that have slipped into losses because of poor passenger load, economic slowdown and high cost of jet fuel.
"If required, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will take appropriate action to protect passenger interest,” the minister said.
The DGCA has asked these airlines to refund the full fare of August 18 tickets to passengers within 48 hours of cancellation.
Patel has asked state-run carrier Air India to increase its flights on the day. “We will have about 25 to 30,000 seats on our scheduled services. We would also deploy Boeing 747s (about 430 seats) on high density routes like Delhi- Mumbai to meet passengers’ requirement,” an Air India spokesman said.
He also added that depending on the load on August 18, the airlines would also mount additional flights above the stated capacity.
Travel operators felt Air India would have to carry additional loads if the private carriers choose to suspend operations that day.
“We do see more bookings for Air India on the 18th of August. However, many people seem to be just postponing their trips to either Monday or Wednesday,” Thomas Thottathil, spokesman of Cox & Kings, a leading travel solutions provider told Hindustan Times.