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Fri 29 Apr 2011 09:39 AM

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Air India's UAE flights hit hard by pilot strike

More than 1,200 passengers stranded as airline scrambles to reroute aircraft and flight plans

Air India's UAE flights hit hard by pilot strike
Air India flight operations to the UAE have been severely disrupted by the ongoing pilot strike. (Getty Images)

Air India flight operations to the UAE have been severely disrupted by the ongoing pilot strike, the regional manager of the airline has told Arabian Business.

Approximately 12 percent of the airline’s flights out of India have been hit the strike, as the Indian Commercial Pilots Association protested against disparity in pay scales that arose after the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India.

UAE airports have been among the most affected by the strike as outward bound international Air India flights come to the UAE first before departing onwards to their destinations.

“The situation looks a little gloomy and with the number of flights that we have in hand, [it] looks like there’ll be a number of cancellations,” Abhay Pathak, regional manager for the Gulf, Middle East & Africa, Air India, told Arabian Business.

“We’re trying our best to see how we can accommodate the passengers. There’s supposed to be around 1,200 to 1,500 passengers, and we’re trying to cater to most of them. We’re trying to minimise the inconvenience to them, transferring them to other airlines and blocking seats,” he added.

According to a Khaleej Times report, the airline has been forced to cancel a flight to Kochi from Sharjah, while a Delhi flight from Abu Dhabi had to be rerouted through Dubai.

“For the flight to Mumbai, we’re operating on a wide-body aircraft, two flights for Mumbai will be taken care of,” Pathak told Arabian Business.

He added that the airline was still trying to get a wide-body aircraft for the Delhi route, which would put it in a ‘win-win’ situation.

Some Delhi flights would be rerouted through Amritsar, he said, while for “other flights, like the Calicut flight, we’re operating, but there’ll be a little delay.”

He refused to confirm how long the situation was likely to last for as the airline and the ICPA were locked in a legal battle at the Delhi High Courts, and he could not comment on the matter.

“Corporate are dealing with this. The matter is already in the court, it depends on how the directive comes from that,” was all he would comment on the matter.

This is not the first time Air India services between the UAE and India have been disrupted.

In September 2010, Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh was forced to intervene after the airline cancelled  75 flights from Kerala to the Gulf citing a shortage of cabin crew.

In addition, 203 flights from the rest of India to the GCC region where scheduled to be cut, the airline said at the time.

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