In the first sign of softening of their stance, three pilots of crisis-hit Air India who had reported sick resumed duty on Wednesday. The Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), which is spearheading the nine-day-old agitation, said it was open to talks with the government to end the impasse.
Though an Air India spokesperson confirmed that the three had resumed duty, the IPG claimed they weren't its members, and accused the airline management of trying to create a rift in its ranks.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had said in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the government was ready to hold unconditional talks, and promised that the management wouldn't be vindictive.
The IPG, in a statement, maintained that it was “open to meeting officials of the management, and/or Ministry, at any place at any time, in order to resolve these issues, and bring an end to the current impasse.”
The cash-strapped national carrier has put in place a contingency plan, and is operating a curtailed schedule on international sectors. Air India is operating flights to Europe and North America, but the passengers continue to suffer, as it is difficult to find seats in international carriers.
The stir has led to a revenue loss of more than Rs. 150 crore for Air India, which is in a tight financial spot.
The Minister had appealed to the pilots to return to work, saying they had the “last chance” to revive the “almost-bankrupt” airline, even as the chorus against putting taxpayers' money into an ailing carrier has raised protests from several quarters.
The airline has already fired 71 striking pilots, who have been protesting against rescheduling of the training programme of the soon-to-be inducted Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner' and issues related to their career prospects.