Defying a court order and threat of stringent action by management, about 600 pilots continued to strike Friday, causing the already cash-strapped national carrier a loss of about 270 million rupees ($6 million) in three days.
Air India so far has been forced to cancel approximately 100 flights. Flight disruptions were mostly at the Delhi and Mumbai airports; it canceled 52 flights in the national capital and 33 in the financial capital alone.
Rishab Kapur, general secretary of the now-banned Indian Commercial Pilot Association (ICPA), says, “We are more than willing to go to jail. Nearly 31,000 Air India employees will also be ready to court arrest because we are serious about saving the national carrier from ruin.” The pilots are demanding pay parity, better working conditions and reinstatement of sacked pilots.
Air India set a 5 p.m. local time deadline on Friday for its striking pilots to return to work or provide a valid reason for leave, without which they would face sacking. ICPA pilots said they were ready to return to work only if written assurances are given that their demands will be met.
An Air India spokesman says, “as far as we know, the strike is still on. None of the striking pilots reported for duty despite our deadline and the contempt of court proceedings against them. We are working out the future course of action.”
The national carrier has also suspended bookings on domestic and regional international destinations until Sunday. “Fresh bookings will only start May 4,” the spokesman says.
Meanwhile, private airlines are exploiting the benefits of the strike. They have increased their fares by up to 75% in most of the busiest sectors.