New Delhi: After five days of Air India impasse, the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) on Saturday said that they are willing for unconditional talks with the government while the later maintaining that the pilots must call off strike first.

“We are ready to hold unconditional talks with the government and hoping that it will look into our genuine reasons and resolve it,” said IPG here on Friday.

Seeking government’s positive response into the matter, IPG further said, “We have approached the government on several occasions but no solution arrived from their end. We hope our concerns are addressed this time.”


Taking a tough stand, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh asked the striking Air India pilots to apologise to passengers, start the flights and then come to the government for talks.

"The first priority must be to make sure that the passengers feel they are being listened to. So let the pilots decide that. Ask for forgiveness from passengers. Start the flights ... we can talk on anything after that," Singh said.

He reminded the pilots that Air India was almost bankrupt and public money was being pumped to revive the national carrier.

"Our plan is to make Air India viable, revive Air India, make it profitable. That is why we are giving public money to Air India," Singh said.

The minister said the process of revival was bound to see many problems and asked the airline employees to be patient.

"They should firmly say their views but not inconvenience the passengers and make Air India lose credibility. Don't cause monetary loss to Air India. The airline is almost bankrupt," he said.

Singh said the government was mulling taking some aircraft on wet lease, as in such cases the planes come with a crew.
The Minister said that the government was also in touch with some retired pilots besides rationalising the flights operated by Air India.


Earlier on Saturday, senior pilots have sought the Prime Minister's intervention to end the impasse.

Supporting the agitation, senior pilots wrote a letter to the Chairman-cum-Managing Director of AI and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying the demand of the pilots were genuine and they should be looked into, sources said.


Ajit Singh has invited his predecessors Sharad Yadav, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Shahnawaz Hussain for informal talks on the ongoing strike, sources said.

Indicating support to the government on the issue, Rudy said, "The argument given by the erstwhile Air India pilots is bizarre. No Government will support them."

He was of the view that common people could not be harassed because of the strike.

The Civil Aviation Minister reached out to Yadav, Rudy and Hussain as the strike by pilots entered the fifth day. Some senior pilots have also sought intervention by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to end the current impasse, claiming the demands of pilots be met as they were "genuine and just".


So far, 71 striking pilots were sacked by the authorities for not joining duty.

To add to the woes, over 15 national and international flights were cancelled on Friday leaving the passengers worst-hit in the whole situation.

In a statement on Friday night, Air India said it has terminated the services of 25 striking pilots "taking a serious view of the situation".
With this, the total number of pilots who have been dismissed since the agitation started on Tuesday has gone up to 71.


AI has also written to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asking it to cancel the licenses of 11 office bearers of the IPG whose services have been terminated.

On a day when 23 international and domestic flights were cancelled causing hardship to passengers, the airline said it was putting in place a sustainable contingency plan to mitigate the inconvenience caused to them.


Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh early on Friday briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the developments and later appealed to the pilots to resume duty. Though the minister ruled out invoking the provisions of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on them, he said their strike was illegal.


AI also moved the Supreme Court seeking contempt action action against the agitating pilots for not heeding the direction of the Delhi High Court which had declared their strike as illegal and barred them from any protest action.

The Apex Court, however, refused to intervene and asked the airline to negotiate with the pilots and "sort out" their differences.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said the pilots "have done nothing for obstruction of justice or to bring disrepute to the court. Your problem is with them. You sit with them and sort out the differences. Don't resort to contempt proceedings."

However, it said if the strike is illegal, then the airline can take action against them.



The cash-strapped national carrier is losing revenue of Rs 10-12 crore a day due to the stir, apart from a daily incremental cost of Rs 3-5 crore, officials said.

The IPG, whose members have been reporting sick, are protesting the national carrier's move to send pilots from both Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines in equal numbers to get trained for flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the first of which is likely to be inducted later this month.

The pilots protesting against rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their career progression have showed no signs of relenting.

The IPG has a strength of about 250 pilots while the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) has over 1,200 membership out of a total of 1,600 pilots. The remaining are mostly executive pilots.


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