Hundreds of passengers booked to travel on Air India flights bound for long-distance international destinations are likely to be stranded from Tuesday as 120 pilots went on sick leave late on Monday.
The pilots, who reported "sick", belong to the Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG), the union, which represents the airline's 550 pilots operating long-distance international flights.
The IPG decided to start the agitation after discussions with the airline management over giving preference to IPG pilots to train on the newly inducted Boeing 787 planes failed. IPG pilots are demanding preference over erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots. Air India and Indian Airlines were merged in February 2011.
AI operates 23 international flights daily - the highest number by any Indian airline. Passengers bound to destinations such as London, New York, Toronto and Chicago might get adversely affected with 200 more pilots set to join the agitation by Tuesday.
According to sources, talks failed because the management did not accept IPG's demand to introduce time-bound promotions as compensation against sharing training slots on the Boeing 787 with erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots. "Until Sunday, the airline management had accepted our demand for time-bound promotions which means a pilot serving the airline for a particular number of years gets promotion by default. The only matter of disagreement was the number of years a pilot requires to put in to qualify for a promotion. However, on Monday the management completely discarded the proposal," said an IPG member requesting anonymity.
The dispute surfaced last November when erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots asked an equal right to train on Boeing 787s. However, IPG members argued that their members were not allowed to train on Airbus 320s inducted by Indian Airlines in 2005 before the two airlines were merged. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the training slots should be equally divided between pilots from both groups. The AI spokesperson did not respond to HT's calls.