The 11 pilots have been given a week's time to file their reply, sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, a day after the state-owned airline wrote to the civil aviation regulator asking it to cancel the licenses of the 11 IPG office-bearers who are among the sacked pilots.
The DGCA action came on a day when at least 16 flights, mostly international, were cancelled even as Government asked the section of the Air India pilots to end their five-day stir before talks could be held on the row over training and career progression.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh also reached out to the Opposition to find ways to end the impasse.
A group of senior pilots, reported to be in executive cadre, also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and AI CMD Rohit Nandan supporting the pilots' demands and demanding that "genuine" issues be looked into.
Leaders of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), spearheading the stir, said they were willing to hold talks with the government without any pre-condition to resolve the matter.
But Ajit Singh asked the pilots to consider the plight of passengers and said "we are ready for talks but they must call off their strike".
"The first priority must be to make sure that the passengers feel they are being listened to. So let the pilots decide that. Ask for forgiveness from passengers. Start the flights ... We can talk on anything after that," Singh said.
He also reminded the pilots that Air India was almost bankrupt and public money was being pumped to revive the national carrier.
At a press conference in Mumbai, IPG President Jeetendra Awhad and senior leader Tauseef Muqaddam said "the ball is in the government's court" and blamed the airline management for not giving a clear picture to the government.
Taking a tough stand, the Air India management had yesterday sacked 25 pilots. With this, the total number of pilots whose services have been terminated has gone upto 71.
Ajit Singh is also meeting two of his Opposition predecessors, Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, to find a way to resolve the crisis in the ailing national carrier.