The unofficial strike by Air India pilots entered its seventh day today, forcing the national carrier to cancel 14 flights – eight domestic and six international. This follows the cancellation of 20 flights on Sunday, and 22 on Saturday.
"As the pilots are not ready to call off their strike and re-join work, we have cancelled 14 international flights from Delhi and Mumbai," an Air India official said. Ten flights from Delhi, three from Mumbai and one from New York were cancelled today, in a disruption that continues to cause intense hardship to international passengers and marring the airline's, and India's, image abroad.
Summer is the peak season for Indians travelling abroad; and the agitation has reportedly cost the already debt-crippled airline Rs96 crore in losses so far.
For passengers, the chief grouse apart from the delays is that they find it difficult to extract information from AI staff about cancellations or subsequent arrangements. "I'll never come to India again,'' vowed a disgusted foreigner travelling from Mumbai to Canada. The passengers' latest irritant is that on Sunday, the airline refused to refund the cost of tickets booked on cancelled flights.
The pilots started reporting 'sick' en masse from last Monday evening, with well over 250 of them now staying away from work – some reports put the figure of absentee pilots as high as 400. The management has sacked 71 of the pilots; and in an unprecedented step, asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to cancel the flying licences of 11 of the strike leaders.