Ajit Singh holds talks with AI staff; but striking pilots excluded

On the 14th day of the unofficial strike by most of Air India's internationally qualified pilots, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh is currently reported to be holding talks with the airline staff. But the striking pilots and their representatives have been kept out.

Meanwhile, a few of the pilots started trickling back. Four pilots are reported to have returned to duty today, adding to the seven who resumed flying on Saturday.

However, this is a rather small percentage of the nearly 400 pilots still on strike, and the airline's operations are still as crippled as they have been since 7 May, when the pilots started going on 'sick leave' en masse.

Passengers booked on AI remain the worst hit by the strike, which was declared illegal by the Delhi High Court a few days after it began. In this, the peak season for international travel by Indians, many have got stranded in India and abroad.

International flights are the national carrier's bread and butter, as domestic travellers have other options through foreign airlines.

The pilots' strike has so far cost the airline, already financially crippled and staying aloft on government support, Rs230 crore, according to the most recent estimates.