Air India today sacked 10 pilots after a 'report sick' strike that saw at least 150 pilots reporting 'sick' and led to the cancellation of five international flights today, frustrating passengers and dealing another blow to the deeply troubled national carrier's image.
At the same time the Indian Pilots' Guild, which mainly represents original Air India pilots before former domestic carrier Indian Airlines was merged into AI, has been derecognised with immediate effect.
Furthermore, reports say the AI management has sent a team of doctors to the homes of the 'sick' pilots to ascertain if they are faking illness, as they obviously are.
Earlier today, both the management and the aviation ministry had warned that strict action would be taken against the striking pilots if they did not return to duty by 6pm. Ajit Singh, the civil aviation minister, called the strike illegal and counterproductive (See: Ministry threatens stern action as over 100 Air India pilots fall 'ill').
The guild says the unofficial strike is over blockages on promotion; but as is widely known, the trigger for the action was the sending of pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines for training on the Boeing Dreamliner, the virtually bankrupt airline's latest addition to its fleet. There is no love lost between the pilots of the two earlier branches of the airline.
Pilots from Indian Airlines, with mostly domestic flight experience, have long been clamouring for parity with their Air India counterparts in training and salary. But the move to send many of them for Dreamliner training has caused heartburn among the AI pilots, who seem to feel they have an automatic priority.