New Delhi: Undeterred by threats of likely suspension, contempt of court and a possible lockout, agitating pilots of Air India have refused to end their ongoing strike which entered fifth day on Sunday.

The strike has almost grounded the public carrier with only 39 domestic flights taking off on Saturday.

To meet the acute shortage of pilots, AI had to take a few planes on wet-lease from Kingfisher Airlines. These flights were operated on the Delhi-Varanasi and Delhi-Mumbai route.

Meanwhile, irked over the adamant attitude of AI pilots, the Union government has indicated a partial lockout, under which operation of Indian Airlines could be stopped. However, the long-haul International flights and AI Express will operate as per their schedule.

Government is also looking for an option to replace Air India CMD Arvind Jadav. Possibilities are that the government may soon appoint a professional from the finance sector to the post to bail the public carrier out of the financial mess.

Previously, Jadav, an IAS officer, was Joint Secretary in the electricity department. As he had no experience in aviation sector, his appointment has always been under scanner.

Apart from four strikes, Jadav’s tenure has been dogged by several controversies including misbehavior with air hostess and the Mangalore mishap. Making the situation worse, he is also being held responsible for resignations of expatriate CEO of Air India, Valdaaf and Air India Express CEO Pawan Arora.

Though S Chadrakumar has been appointed as the CEO of AI Express, the top post of Air India is still lying vacant. Earlier, independent directors of the AI board had also resigned after allegations of dictatorial behaviour and corruption. CBI is investigating into the matter.

Before the formation of AI Express, two-third of the AI staff was from Indian Airlines. But now, most of them have been transferred to AI express, leading to shortage of staff with the Indian Airlines. This is one of the major reasons behind the pilots’ strike demanding salary hike and perks.

Government has categorically maintained that till AI does not come out of the financial crisis, a salary hike for employees will not be possible.

JPN/Bureau