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20 international flights hit as AI impasse enters Day 6
Breakthrough expected soon
Management working to identify hardliners
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 13
With Air India pilots not budging from their position, the Indian Pilots Guilds (IPG) agitation entered the sixth day today, leading to cancellation of around 20 international flights, causing inconvenience to hundreds of passengers.

Sources, however, say a breakthrough in the impasse is expected soon. The management seems to be working on a strategy to identify hardliners in the group and separate them from those who can be more malleable in the circumstances.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh’s hard stance and complete support to the AI management will work as key factors in breaking the strike, they add. But the laid-off pilots will be taken back as soon as their colleagues start reporting for work, they add, explaining that “It (reinstatement of sacked pilots) will be a part of the deal, as in all earlier circumstances”.

Obviously the AI-IA merger didn’t go as planned, and something has seriously gone wrong. My job is to see what the current situation is, learn from the past mistakes and work to see that Air India succeeds

Ajit Singh, Civil Aviation Minister

Ajit Singh appears to be working on a plan to resolve the very basis of the crisis-the AI-IA merger-once and for all, and the remedy can go beyond the mere implementation of the Dharmadhikari committee report.

Last week, Ajit Singh openly blamed the merger as the reason behind the current crisis, saying it should not have been done, or more due diligence should have been shown.

Acknowledging that the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines has not progressed as desired, he told a news channel that said certain things had gone “seriously wrong” in the process. He also agreed that the days of national carriers were over.

“Any countries you look at, those days when national carrier was a reality, have gone,” the minister said. He accepted that it was difficult for the government to run a service industry like an airline where “customer is king”.

“Top to bottom in a government PSU, in a government company, the culture is entirely different from what you need in the service industry,” agency reports quoted him as saying.

His first priority, however, seems to be to bring peace to Air India, which is at war with itself. Senior AI officials agree that there are two systems working side by side in the flag carrier. “Not just the pilots, even other staff, including senior officers, of operations and administration branches, of the two entities merged in 2007 continue to consider themselves as separate entities,” they add.

Therefore, although they sit in the same offices and share a common brand name, the two sides fight over allowances, pay scales and even holidays.

“Merger created problems that cannot be resolved. Our grades, work, promotions and allowances are different. When you see your colleague from the other cadre doing the same work, but getting easy promotions, allowances, there is bound to be resentment,” says a senior official says, clearly holding the then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel responsible.

Narrow escape for 111 fliers

MALE: An Air India plane carrying 111 persons from Thiruvananthapuram to Male narrowly escaped an accident when one of its tyres burst while landing at the airport in the Maldivian capital. GMR, which operates the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) here, said flight number AI263 witnessed a tyre burst at 12.06 pm on Saturday. The aircraft, however, safely taxied to the apron. — PTI





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