AI suspends all flights as talks with pilots fail again

As the talks between the Air India management and striking pilots again failed to make headway on Monday, the national carrier has been forced to suspend all flights for the next 15 days.

At least 26 flights were cancelled on Tuesday as the strike entered its fourth day; and in fact all its 320 flights – 220 domestic and 90 international – are likely to be grounded as a formal order to suspend flights is expected soon.

"We have deployed additional staff at airports across the country and will ensure that passengers are shifted to flights operated by other airlines," a senior official of the carrier was reported as having said today.

The issue is agitating the highest levels of government, with the prime minister's office urging the civil aviation ministry to ensure speedy resolution of the crisis. Civil aviation secretary N M Nambiar has also called a meeting with the management of all airlines on Tuesday to not just to resolve the Air India strike but to also see how such agitations can be avoided in the future.

Meanwhile, Captain V K Bhalla, who represents the senior executive pilots of Air India, said the strike had been "thrust upon the pilots". He charged the Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav of "trying to sabotage the airline" since May.

Air India, now run by the National Aviation Corporation of India, said it was open for further negotiations after talks between Bhalla and Jadhav made no headway on Monday. ''The situation is very, very worrisome,'' Jadhav said.