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Mon 14 May 2012 12:40 PM

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Air India cancels Saudi flights amid pilot strikes

Routes from Mumbai and Delhi to Riyadh and Jeddah have been cancelled this week

Air India cancels Saudi flights amid pilot strikes
(AFP/Getty Images)

Air India has cancelled a number of flights to and from Saudi Arabia this week, amid an ongoing pilots’ strike which has reportedly stranded thousands of passengers.

Several flights scheduled from Mumbai and Delhi to Riyadh and Jeddah have been cancelled, according to Air India’s website.

UAE routes appear to be operating as scheduled, with no flight cancellations announced on the airline’s website or on those of the emirates’ airports.

However, media reports say residents remain concerned about possible disruption after an Air India Express flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Muscat and another between Sharjah and Calicut were cancelled last week.

Pilot strikes at the state-owned airline began last Tuesday, with staff angered over a recent decision on training for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes.

Approximately 200 pilots are thought to have called in sick during the last week, following the airline’s decision to train pilots from India Airlines - which merged with Air India in 2007 - to fly the new Boeing aircrafts.

The pilots are arguing that the planes were ordered before the merger, and therefore they should be the preferred choice for training.

The airline has responded by sacking more than 70 of its pilots in the timeframe, amid a Delhi High Court ruling that the strike action was illegal.

But despite being ordered to return to work, the pilots have not turned up for duty.

Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has made fresh fleas this week for the pilots to end their strike and enter talks with their employer.

He met with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday to discuss the issue, but large numbers of flights remain cancelled through to May 18.

The spat is one of many ongoing challenges for Air India, which is already grappling with escalating financial problems.

The airline has accumulated losses of over INR200bn (US$3.76bn) since its tie-up with Indian Airlines in the last five years, and has seen repeated employee strikes due to delayed salary payments.

Earlier this year, planes were also grounded after oil companies declined to deliver fuel over non-payment of fees.

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Buddhadeb Mookerjee 7 years ago

Air India has become a jinxed airline. It has shed its lost glory long ago. While the pilots may be acting unduly stubborn on a major national issue, the government is not handling the issue with any degree of maturity. Those in power need to gulp their pride and reach a solution, even at the cost of some compromise. The management has little exposure to corporate grit and tact and is trying bureaucratic attitude which does not work in the commercial world. Since ministers are failing to reach an acceptable solution let the government hire experts in the field of corporate dispute resolution. Do anything possible but stop this circus. The whole world is laughing at you.