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AI begins intl operations; pilots want govt to initiate talk

By Pti
Air India
New Delhi, May 16: In an attempt to restore normalcy, Air India today began international operations to the US and Europe as part of its contingency plan even as striking pilots asked the government to initiate preliminary talks.

As the stir by the pilots entered the ninth day, the Airlines curtailed and clubbed many of its flights to the US and Europe to stabilise international operations.

"We have put in force our contingency plan and started operating our international flights, which were affected for the past eight days causing great inconvenience to our customers. Slowly, we hope that our operations would normalise," said an Air India official.

The national carrier operated Delhi-Paris-New York (JFK) and Delhi-Frankfurt-Chicago flight early this morning while it would be operating Delhi-Shanghai and Delhi-London as per schedule.

"We have merged Mumbai-London and Mumbai-Shanghai flights with the Delhi-London and Delhi-Shanghai flights. We are operating these flights with Boeing 777 ER aircraft so we won't have problem accommodating the passengers," the official said, adding this will bring relief to many of our passengers who were anxious about their flights status.

Most of our passengers are those who have booked tickets months ago for their journey, he said, adding if the situation permits then we may open our bookings for our ultra-long flights, which have been suspended till tomorrow.

"We have deployed Airbus 320 aircraft for our short haul flights to Bangkok, Singapore and other destinations," he said. In another development, the striking Air India pilots asked the government to at least initiate preliminary talks.

"The government should at least being preliminary talks. We are ready for talks but they should formally invite us for talks to resolve the issue," said Jitendra Awhad, Chief of Indian Pilots Guild.

Awhad said the union, which has now been derecognised by the airline management, was in talks with other political parties to resolve the impasse.

"When pilots having allegiance with Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA), the union of erstwhile Indian Airline pilots, had gone on strike they held talks with them and resolved the crisis.

Their union was also recognised. We just want that talks should begin and the suspended pilots should be reinstated," Awhad said.

The pilots' strike has not only caused Rs 150 crore loss to the cash-strapped national carrier but has also greatly inconvenienced passengers.

As it is a vacation period, the stir has hit the plans of holidaymakers as they are unable to get seats in other airlines or are ending up paying a hefty price.


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