With the stand-off between the Jet Airways and the agitating pilots deepening and services badly disrupted for the second day on Thursday, the carrier gave a veiled warning of hiring foreign pilots to tide over the situation.
While the airline cancelled over 200 flights as more than 400 cockpit crew failed to turn up for work for the second day, a meeting between Jet Chairman Naresh Goyal and strikeres' body National Aviators Guild (NAG) failed to take place.
However, back-channel talks were reportedly on to find ways to end the stalemate.
Goyal, who met Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, did not rule out hiring foreign pilots if it came to that.
Asked if Jet Airways would think of recruiting foreign pilots, he said "yes ... we will request the government authorities. There are enough pilots available in the world."
He also threatened to take disciplinary action against pilots, if they did not follow the law of the land, follow discipline and if they were not bothered about even committing contempt of court.
Jet is contemplating seeking DGCA approval for inducting some spare pilots of its wholly-owned subsidiary, JetLite, into its own fleet to tide over the situation.
While both sides appeared unrelenting, there were unconfirmed reports that agitating pilots were holding talks with the management through interlocutors.
A formula doing the rounds is that the pilots could could call off the agitation if the management takes back their sacked colleagues against the backdrop of reported thinking by the air carrier to declare a lockout. There was no confirmation from either side of these reports.
NAG President Gireesh Kaushik airdashed to Delhi and held parleys with the interlocutors to find a way out.
In a setback to the agitators, the Bombay High Court issued a contempt notice to their union for continuing the strike despite an earlier order restraining them. The contempt notice was issued by Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud who sought a reply by September 14 on a petition by the airline.
During the Goyal-Patel meeting, the Minister is understood to have conveyed to the Jet chief to take steps urgently to end the agitation. In a related development, eight all-India trade unions
wrote a joint letter to Jet CEO Wolfgang Prock-Schauer demanding immediate reinstatement of the sacked pilots and recognition to the NAG, which claims a membership of 680..
The unions--AITUC, CITU, BMS, INTUC, HMS, UTUC, UTC and AICCTU--blamed the Jet management for "violating" the legal rights of the pilots to form a union.
As many as 208 flights, including 38 international, were cancelled across the country as 432 out of 1056 pilots did not report for work today, a company spokesperson said. The total number of pilots includes nearly 200 expats.