Air India agitation enters 19th day, losses climb to Rs 300 crore

NEW DELHI, May 26: The Air India pilots’ agitation today entered its 19th day, making the national carrier’s losses go up to Rs 300 crore.
A senior official of Air India said:”Till now, the losses stand at Rs 270 crore on various accounts such as ticket cancellations, unused labour and bulk of Boeing-777 fleet being grounded. While some of our bookings have gone up due to maximum seat categories being in the lowest price bracket, our per-day losses are now contained downwards of Rs10 crore in the current contingency plan.”
The AI had on Thursday decided to slash fares by placing a large chunk of seats under the lowest fare category to augment its share in the domestic and international sector.
The airline had the fourth-largest market share in April at 17.6 per cent, preceded by SpiceJet at 17.7, Jet Airways at 21.4 per cent and IndiGo at 23.8 per cent.
Besides the new fare scheme, the airline will shift to a truncated interim schedule for June 1, whereby it will drop seven international destinations, which include Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto, from its regular routine. The airline will then operate only 38 services instead of the regular 45.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh yesterday toughened his stand and warned agitating Air India pilots that the airline may hire new pilots if they refused to end their agitation soon.
“We can think of hiring new pilots,” Mr Singh is learnt to have told a group of pilots who met him for their first time since the agitaion began. The Minister also bluntly told them the airline’s mounting losses due to the strike may make it difficult for it to pay wage arrears to all staff by the end of June as promised.
His remark came after a 90-minute meeting with five pilots belonging to the Indian Pilots’ Guild which is spearheading the agitation.
IPG sources said they were consulting legal experts on what to do next. IPG members asked the Minister to reinstate 101 sacked pilots.