Ministry threatens stern action as over 100 Air India pilots fall 'ill'

Air India had to cancel five international flights today after its pilots started calling in 'sick' from Monday. The 500-strong Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG) said about 100 pilots had reported sick by 9pm on Monday and the number may swell to 250 today.

The airline management has threatened tough action if the pilots don't return to work by 6 pm. According to PTI, this could take the form of the 'sick' pilots being made to undergo medical tests. The aviation ministry on its part has warned that it would shut down AI's international operations if the strike snowballs.

The pilots had threatened to go on strike from Monday night after their talks with the airline management and aviation ministry on the issue of training for the Boeing-787 Dreamliner broke down.

This stir could cripple AI's international operations just ahead of the peak summer holiday season that begins this weekend.

The latest strike threat is a further fall-out of the clumsily-handled merger of Indian Airlines, the former domestic arm of the national carrier, with Air India in February 2011.

Earlier, the Supreme Court backed the management's decision of sending pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines for training on the Dreamliner, leading to heartburn among the original AI pilots.