New Delhi: Taking a tough stand, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Saturday 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.


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