With neither side budging, people flying with Jet Airways should be prepared for uncertainties on Thursday, the third day of the airline’s pilots reporting sick en masse.
Jet chairman Naresh Goyal told a TV news channel, “They are behaving like terrorists. They cannot hold the country, passengers and airline hostage.” He warned of stern action if they didn’t get back to work.
But the pilots were in no mood to oblige. “We have just one demand — take back the sacked pilots,” said Gireesh Kaushik, president of the National Avia-tors’ Guild, a union of Jet pilots.
Goyal met Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel. The minister ruled out government intervention, asking the airline to sort it on its own.
The impact on passengers was a little less severe than on Tuesday. Fliers were inconvenienced but, Jet claimed, it was able to put 80 per cent of them on other airlines; the rest got back their ticket money.
The Indian cricket team, for instance, flew Air India to reach Colombo to play in the three-nation Compaq trophy. They were earlier booked on Jet.
Jet is the country’s largest airline — beating even the state-owned behemoth Air India — and carries 23,000 passengers every day. It flies to 64 destinations in India and abroad.
Its pilots went on mass sick leave on Tuesday protesting the sacking of two colleagues, both founders of their newly formed union. They were punished for forming that union.
“We cannot disband our union as it is our fundamental right,” said one of the sacked pilots, Sam Thomas. “We’re capable and will find jobs but not dignity if we disband the guild.”
The airline was digging in for a long haul. It stopped taking bookings. And Goyal told CNN-IBN there were enough pilots available worldwide to make good the shortfall if stern action — read sacking — was taken against the agitating pilots.
Jet moved a petition in the Bombay High Court asking for the pilots to be held in contempt of the court’s earlier order preventing them from going on strike. The court ordered a notice to be issued to the guild.