Saturday, 7 May 2011

Air India Returning To Normal Schedules



Air India's flight operations are slowly returning to normal this weekend after pilots ended a 10-day strike that cost the ailing airline millions of dollars in revenues.


Close to 700 pilots working for the domestic service of state-run Air India launched the strike to demand wage parity with colleagues flying international routes.

"The pilots are already reporting back to work," the airline's general manager K. Swaminathan told AFP on Saturday after union leaders announced an end to the walkout late the previous night.

"We are stepping up operations and in the next 48 hours we should be operating at normal capacity," he said.

The strike, stranding tens of thousands of domestic passengers, further damaged the image of the so-called "Maharajah" of the skies which once dominated Indian airspace but now has just 15 percent of passenger traffic.

The union claimed victory but Indian media said the pilots emerged empty-handed from the strike at the airline, which has received vast infusions of taxpayers money to shore up its finances.  "Pilots win nothing," said the Hindustan Times newspaper in a headline.

The pilots climbed down from demands for immediate pay parity with pilots flying international routes and accepted government promises to look into their grievances.   "The government has assured us it will look into all our demands," said union president A.S. Bhinder.

The strikers were all from the former state-run domestic carrier Indian Airlines which was merged in 2007 with international carrier Air India in a bid to create a more cost-efficient national carrier.   But since then, the airline has been engulfed by financial troubles which the pilots charge were caused by corrupt and incompetent government and airline officials.

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