Even as the strike by the Air India pilots owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) entered the sixth day on Sunday, resulting in cancellation of 22 international flights, the Executive Pilots Association (EPA) came out in support of the agitating pilots and urged the Air India management to revoke their suspension.

Calling for negotiations, the EPA in a letter blamed the management for the complete failure of integration of the two airlines leading to poor industrial relations.

However, the stalemate continued, with the pilots and the government sticking to their stands, leaving hundreds of passengers in the limbo.

The EPA urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene and put an end to the strike. It charged the management with violating all service conditions of pilots and the agreements with them under the garb of merger and sought immediate reinstatement of all those sacked. The AI has terminated the services of 71 striking pilots. However, the EPA said it was not in agreement with the methods adopted by the IPG.

“We strongly feel the company should reconsider the [Boeing] 787 Manpower Planning policy and maintain the pre-merger status quo until the contentious issues of pilots' seniority and HR integration are resolved,'' the letter said.

The EPA comprises the senior-most pilots, many of them holding managerial positions. The AI is banking on them to put into operation its contingency plan.

Air India officials said they had to cancel flights between Mumbai and Newark, London and Shanghai and the services between Delhi and Narita (Tokyo), Frankfurt, Paris, Toronto, Hong Kong and Seoul. The airline has already stopped taking bookings of international flights till May 15.

Following pressure from the suffering passengers, the management is learnt to have set in motion the process for a contingency plan.

The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Saturday issued show-cause notices to 11 pilots, mostly office-bearers of the IPG, after the airline management sought cancellation of their flying licences.

However, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh urged the pilots to come back to work and restore normal operations. “We are ready for talks with the pilots and consider their genuine demands but first they should call off the strike and start the flights. The passengers should get justice and the pilots should apologise to them,” he added.

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