The Air India (AI) board will meet here tomorrow to discuss the nearly three-week-old strike by about 200 pilots and a host of financial issues.
Airline sources said the board was likely to consider the next steps to deal with the strike, spearheaded by the now derecognised Indian Pilots Guild (IPG). The airline has sacked 101 pilots and is mulling hiring new ones to restore normalcy in flight schedules, particularly international operations which have been curtailed due to the agitation.
Appeals by Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, for pilots to get back to work, have not yielded results, with the protestors insisting the airline first reinstate all the sacked pilots before they resume duty.
Singh, who met a group of protesting pilots for the first time on Friday since the strike began on May 7, also told them the mounting losses due to the agitation may make it difficult for the airline to pay the wage arrears to all employees by June as promised.
The pilots, who started reporting ‘sick’ and refused to join duty, are also seeking resolution of issues relating to their career progression.
While the Delhi High Court has restrained them from going on strike or reporting sick and asked them to return to work, the Bombay High Court has also ticked off IPG for persisting with the strike by defying court orders, thereby inconveniencing passengers. IPG has been at loggerheads with the AI management over its decision to let the erstwhile Indian Airlines (IA) pilots to train on advanced Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
IPG had protested the management's decision and demanded that pilots from IA not be allowed to train on the wide-bodied aircraft until a comprehensive career progression policy was put in place.
The agitation has led to a loss of Rs 325 crore for the airline, officials said.
“The board will meet on Monday, where it will also take up the payment schedule for Dreamliners, the delivery of which is expected to commence from next month,” AI sources said.
US aircraft maker, Boeing is scheduled to deliver the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Air India after a delay of over three years. Air India is slated to recieve the delivery of six Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft by March next year.
The state-owned carrier has already invited proposals from banks and financial institutions to raise short-term loans upto USD 500 million to take delivery of first few Dreamliners by December this year. The airline plans to repay the loan after selling and leasing back the four planes.
The national carrier had placed order for the purchase of 27 Dreammliners along with 41 Boeing 777 in 2005 and as per the original schedule, the US aircraft maker had to commence the delivery of these aircraft from Septmber, 2008. However, with Boeing deferring the delivery schedule, the national carrier demanded a compensation of USD 1 billion which is yet be paid by it.