Another 22 AI flights cancelled; top pilots want PM to intervene

Some 22 more Air India flights were cancelled today – including at least 16 from Mumbai and Delhi, as the unofficial strike by pilots entered its fifth day.

Over 250 of the pilots have reported 'sick' since Monday night, when the agitation began. This is despite a Delhi High Court ruling calling the strike illegal; and repeated warnings from the airline's management as well as the government that strict action would be taken against the striking pilots.

In fact the management sacked 25 more pilots on Friday, taking the number of sacked pilots to 76. The airline has also written to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asking it to cancel the licenses of 11 office-bearers of the now-derecognised Indian Pilots' Guild whose services have been terminated. However, this has not deterred the rest of the agitating pilots.

Meanwhile the striking pilots got unexpected support from the erstwhile executive pilots' association, the predecessor of the Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG), de-recognised earlier this week.

The senior pilots, most of whom are part of the airline's management, have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying the demands of the pilots were genuine and they should be looked into. The letter added that the AI management has violated the terms of merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.

"Certain agreements which were undertaken at the time of the merger have not been honoured. It is easier for an Indian Airlines pilot to become a commander in four-five years; an Air India pilot on the other hand needs eight to 10 years to become a commander," they reportedly said in the letter.