New Delhi: Air India operations continued to be suspended for the sixth consecutive day on Monday with the striking pilots refusing to budge even as the Delhi High Court postponed till Tuesday a decision on contempt proceedings against the agitators.

According to official estimates, private carriers were flying about 15,000-16,000 of passengers of AI which has drastically cut its domestic services by nearly 90 per cent operating only 40 of its 320 daily flights on Monday.

"We will await the High Court's order on the contempt proceedings and abide by it. .... I have already stated that there will be no talks with the pilots till they are on strike," Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said here.

A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court heard both the pilots and the management through the day and adjourned the matter till tomorrow, castigating both sides for losing opportunities to reach a compromise.

"You agree with them (pilots) to take them back. There is something called give-and-take policy," the bench told the AI management after the pilots offered to call off the strike if de-recognition of Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) was revoked and its sacked office-bearers reinstated.

At a press conference, Ravi accused the main opposition BJP for launching "a political conspiracy by trying to target the Prime Minister on each and every issue", when he was asked about BJP charges that Air India affairs were being run by the Prime Minister's Office.

He said he had briefed the Prime Minister on the situation arising out of the pilots strike and the High Court deliberations on Monday.

The Minister said seven rounds of meetings were held between the pilots and management before the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) but the pilots remained adamant.

Therefore, "I consider this (strike) as a threat to the people and the government and we will not succumb to any pressure", he said.

Countering Ravi's statement, ICPA leaders said the CLC, in its closure report, had blamed the management for not making any effort to resolve the issues.

They quoted the CLC's closure report on the conciliation proceedings as saying that the management had shown "an insincere and superficial attitude towards reaching an amicable solution".

Air India has reduced its operations schedule till May six while it has stopped domestic bookings till Tuesday.

Air India cancels 165 flights

Close to 165 flights were cancelled and re-scheduled Monday as nearly half of Air India's 1,600 pilots continued their strike for the sixth day.

“We will operate around 60 flights on our entire domestic network today. Around 165 flights were cancelled and rescheduled due to the strike,” a senior official with the operational arm of the airline said.

According to the official, the flag carrier's international operations were also affected with the cancellation of 43 flights bound for foreign destinations like London, Dubai and Kathmandu.

Thousands of stranded passengers across the country were also upset with the steep 50-75 percent hike in fares by private airlines.

According to the official, 100 domestic flights of its subsidiary arm of Alliance Air were still being run.

He said the airline had since Thursday adopted a reduced operations plan and hired a Kingfisher Airlines' Airbus aircraft to lessen passenger load. Under the new operations plan, the airline will fly fewer flights by wide-bodied aircraft.

“Currently, our operations are going on smoothly. As we have stopped ticket bookings till May 4, passenger loads will also come down and we will be able to tide over this period,” the official said.

 

(Agencies)