New Delhi: Despite a crippling 55-day-long strike, Air India has carried three percent more passengers between June 1 and June 20 from a year ago and would resume flights to Hong Kong this week.

In its monthly performance review, the airline found that it had carried more than 716,000 passengers during the first 20 days of June-- a rise of three percent compared to the corresponding period of 2011.

"The passenger revenue during the period also increased by five percent to Rs.609 crore from Rs.582 crore that we had achieved during 1-22 June, 2011," a senior Air India official told.

"We have achieved this increase in passenger revenue despite of 18.5 percent lower capacity due to the strike, that has not only hit our international traffic but domestic passenger traffic too," the official said, not wishing to be identified.

The company has decided to introduce promotion schemes to maintain high passenger traffic. The passenger carrier is also trying to restart some of its strike-hit services to East Asia. "We have decided to extend few schemes like 'get upfront' where an economy class passenger can upgrade to business class by paying a nominal fee.

We will also reactivate flight services to Hong Kong from July 6, 2012," the official added. The passenger carrier has already started services to Shanghai and Tokyo, both destinations which were shelved after the strike started. Currently, the airline is operating only 38 of its original 45 services.

Among the seven axed international destinations are Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto. The aviators went on strike May 8, 2012 against the move to train their counterparts from the erstwhile Indian Airlines on the soon-to-be-inducted Boeing-787 Dreamliner.

The airline is said to have suffered an estimated revenue loss of upwards of Rs.610 crore. The grounded fleet of Boeing 777s, unused manpower and absence from key routes have hit the airline's chances of a financial turnaround.

The airline had recorded the highest number of cancellations amongst all domestic carriers in May. data from the aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), earlier in June showed that the airline cancelled 3.2 percent of all its domestic flights in May.

The airline had cancelled 5.2 percent of all its domestic flights in April 2012.The passenger load factor of the Air India in May was even worse than that of cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines.

The flag carrier's passenger load factor stood at 70.6, while that of Kingfisher Airlines stood at 73.3 percent. The highest passenger load factor was obtained by IndiGo at 86.3 percent in the period under review.The airline in May had the fourth largest market share of 16.2 percent, following SpiceJet at 18.5, Jet Airways at 21.4 percent and IndiGo at 24.9 percent.

A month prior to the strike, the airline's financial performance monitor has shown that the carrier was able to reduce its cash losses by 62.08 percent to about Rs.80 crore during April, 2012 from Rs.211 crore a year ago even as fuel costs had gone up 16 percent during the period.

(Agencies)

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