Bloomberg News

Air India Pilots to End 58-Day Strike Over 787 Training

July 03, 2012

A group of Air India Ltd. pilots, who stayed away from work for 58 days because of a dispute over the right to fly new Boeing Co. (BA:US) 787 planes, told a court today they are ending their strike.

The strike will be called off without any conditions, the Indian Pilots’ Guild said in an affidavit to the Delhi High Court. The pilots and Air India’s management agreed to meet on July 5 to discuss the matter.

As many as 434 members of the Guild have stayed away from work since May 7, protesting the carrier’s decision to give training on the Dreamliners to captains belonging to Indian Airlines, a domestic carrier that merged with Air India in 2007. The strike prompted the airline to fire as many as 101 pilots and pare overseas flights.

“The resolution of such human resources issues is central to Air India’s turnaround,” said Binit Somaia, a Sydney-based director at CAPA Centre for Aviation, an industry consultant. “The integration has been badly managed.”

The Guild argued that the new Boeing planes, ordered by Air India before the merger, should be flown by its pilots. All the 43 Airbus SAS planes bought by Indian Airlines are operated by pilots from that company even after the merger, it said. Air India has about 1,500 pilots.

The government is willing to consider grievances of the pilots, including reinstatement of those terminated by Air India, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said in a statement today. Singh said he hopes the pilots will call off the strike immediately and rejoin work within 48 hours.

Flight Cuts

Air India reduced overseas flights to 38 a day from 45 after the strike began. Last month, the carrier also advertised for captains on five-year contracts.

The airline is set to start receiving its 27 on-order Dreamliners. Chairman Rohit Nandan said in Beijing on June 11 the deliveries are imminent, after Air India deferred plans amid talks with Boeing for compensation over previous delays.

India’s government may provide as much as 300 billion rupees ($5.5 billion) through 2020 to Air India. The state-run carrier has posted a loss every year since the 2007 merger.

Airlines in India are struggling to convert rising travel demand into profits because of high fuel costs and a price war. Closely-held discount carrier IndiGo is the only profitable company among the country’s six operators.

Industrywide losses by the nation’s airlines totaled more than $2 billion in the year ended in March, according to CAPA. That may narrow to as much as $1.4 billion in the current fiscal year, CAPA said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Pratap Patnaik in New Delhi at ppatnaik2@bloomberg.net; Karthikeyan Sundaram in New Delhi at kmeenakshisu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Neil Denslow at ndenslow@bloomberg.net


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