New Delhi: With no end in sight to the Air India pilots' strike, the national carrier has firmed up plans to hire new cockpit crew to run its long-haul international operations which have been hit by the 29-day long agitation.

Hiring of new batches of pilots is part of a new business plan for international operations, which the ailing carrier is likely to announce on Wednesday. It would be implemented as soon as necessary clearances are granted by aviation regulator DGCA, official sources said on Tuesday.
The new plan comes two days after the government pumped in Rs 1,200 crore as additional equity in the cash-strapped carrier.

The additional funds are part of the Rs 30,000 crore infusion plan, which is to be implemented over next nine years so long as the airline keeps meeting set financial and operational parameters for a complete turnaround.

With this infusion, the airline would pay Rs 250 crore as salary to all employees, barring the pilots who have been on strike since May 7. The rest would be used to pay tax dues and those to vendors like airport operators and oil companies.

The new business plan includes the long-haul sectors on which Air India would operate flights as soon as the Boeing 787 Dreamliners are inducted, the sources said.

The airline is also getting back soon an Airbus A-330, which was grounded for repairs. This aircraft is likely to be used for resuming operations to destinations like Shanghai and Tokyo which are not covered now under the truncated schedule, they said.

The crisis-ridden national carrier intends to implement the new business plan soon to streamline its global operations, especially to North America and Europe.

The airline is currently operating 75 per cent of its international flights, or 38 of the 45 two way services it normally flies globally.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had recently said Air India, which was losing an average of Rs 10-15 crore daily due to the IPG strike, was seeking to reduce this loss to Rs five –six crore a day by operating a truncated international schedule.

"The less you fly, the less you lose", he had quipped, saying that the airline had, in fact, contained its losses by not operating on loss-making foreign routes.

The business plan, which would include hiring of new pilots, has been prepared after reviewing the airline operations on all routes, particularly in the international sector where it was making losses or was not able to recover even the fuel costs.

The new flight schedule would be submitted to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) soon for approval.

"One thing is clear. The government will not give more public money to Air India. This Rs 30,000 crore (infusion over nine years) is their last chance to perform or perish," Singh had said.


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