Defiant AI pilots continue to disrupt flights

The unofficial agitation by Air India pilots entered the fourth day today, with at least four flights cancelled, with another harrowing day ahead for passengers, who once again complained that they were not being kept informed about the cancellations.

Air India says it's leasing planes to compensate, and entitling affected passengers to hotel accommodation. It has also stopped taking bookings on international flights till 15 May.

International air fares have gone through the roof, with hardly any seats available on flights to Europe or North America.

Meanwhile the management is filing a contempt of court application in the Supreme Court against the striking pilots, as the Delhi High Court had ruled on Wednesday that the Air India strike is illegal. But despite this, the pilots remained defiant. Around 250 pilots from Air India continue to be away 'sick'.

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh today met Congress and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the crisis. "I am hopeful that Air India will not move to ICU (intensive care unit). I will take up the issue of the air turbine fuel (ATF) costs, other costs and the problem faced by the passengers," he told newspersons.

A total of 46 pilots have been sacked in the last three days, including 10 on Thursday. The pilots say that the management has failed to give them the promotions that are due. They also say that it's unacceptable for pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines to be trained to fly the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is meant to join the national carrier's fleet later this month.

In 2007, Air India was merged with Indian Airlines, the government-owned domestic carrier. Since then, pilots from the two airlines have clashed repeatedly over issues like parity in pay and seniority.