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Kingfisher catches Air India bug, fliers suffer as fares jump

The virus affecting Air India pilots spread on Thursday with their counterparts in Kingfisher Airlines, too, reporting "sick". HT reports. Kingfisher pilots report sick | AI must not lose credibility: Ajit | Day 4: AI still grounded | In pics

india Updated: May 11, 2012 02:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
news,hindustantimes,Air India

The virus affecting Air India (AI) pilots spread on Thursday with their counterparts in Kingfisher Airlines, too, reporting “sick”.

With the mass sick leave by AI pilots entering its fourth day, the national carrier stopped all bookings for Europe and North America till May 15 and discontinued its Amritsar-Delhi-Toronto flight.

International fares have gone through the roof with demand overshooting supply. “There are hardly any seats available on flights to America and Europe. Fares have shot up as much as 20%,” said Rajji Rai, president, Travel Agents Association of India.

On the home front, Kingfisher pilots protesting four months of unpaid wages added to passenger woes. "We were assured January salaries would be paid on May 9 but it didn’t happen. Around 70 pilots in Delhi alone have reported sick," a pilot said.

However, salary disbursement started late Thursday, holding out hope that the problem would be solved soon.
There was no such sign in AI, where the Delhi high court’s ruling that the stir was illegal has had no impact. “The court has not ordered us to go back to work,” said a pilot representative.

Sackings by the management have also failed to make a dent. Ten more pilots were dismissed, taking the total number to 46.

On Thursday, the number of pilots on sick leave numbered 400 and 20 flights were affected, prompting the AI management to move Supreme Court, seeking initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the pilots.

The petition, likely to come up for hearing on Friday, said the court had on April 23 upheld the management's decision to send pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines (IA) to train on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner - the bone of contention for the agitating pilots, who belong to the pre-merger AI.

The government has been a helpless bystander in all this. "If they (pilots) are not willing to follow the court order, why would they listen to me," asked aviation minister Ajit Singh said.

"If a lot of pilots keep reporting sick, it will cause disruption. But the prospect of disruption is not going to stop us from taking firm action. Nobody is indispensable. The government won't bow to the pilots' demand," he added.

Singh also told a TV channel the AI-IA merger had caused problems and that it may have been a mistake.

57 pilots drunk in 2009-11: govt

Fifty-seven pilots were caught drunk during pre-flight medical tests in 2009-11, aviation minister Ajit Singh has told Parliament.

In a separate reply, he said 20 tipsy pilots were caught in June 2011-February 2012. Of these, three were from Air India.

Kingfisher pilots report sick | 'Everything is negotiable'

First Published: May 11, 2012 00:20 IST