A two-member team of the civil aviation ministry on Thursday began a second round of informal talks with the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) as the strike by its members continued to cripple Air India operations for the ninth day. “The talks have started again, it is going on in the ministry, we hope some breakthrough takes place,” a senior Air India official said. The representatives of the pilots had met the aviation ministry officials earlier Wednesday. The ministry’s team is headed by Joint Secretary PN Sukul to see how to get the pilots back to stations, with their strike forcing the cancellation of 1,100 flights during the past eight days and resulting in a loss of Rs 85 crore.
Earlier, officials at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, the headquarters of civil aviation ministry, said the pilots were unwilling to change their original stand of immediate pay parity with Air India pilots, though the matter was to be addressed by a special committee. Their reference was to the four-member expert committee on human resource matters under former Supreme Court judge, Justice DN Dharmadhikari, that had begun functioning since April 25.
The airline said it has cancelled 185 flights on Thursday on its domestic operations and is operating around 40 flights on the metro routes with large-bodied aircraft. This apart, 100-odd flights of sister budget carrier Alliance Air have also been deployed. The airline further said that it has re-started its ticket bookings for select routes including major metros and regional networks. Earlier, Air India had cancelled ticket bookings on its entire national network till May 4. “Tickets are available now on major routes, including metros and some of the regional destinations. We had stopped bookings to ensure that no backlog remains,” the official said. Air India had also hired 18 aircraft from Kingfisher Airlines and Air Arabia. “We are planning to lease more aircraft,” the official added.