Minister for Civil Aviation Ajit Singh on Sunday said Air India was planning to induct and train more pilots in the wake of the stir by pilots. He stressed the need for the airline to become competitive with the rest of the industry for its survival.

Talking to journalists on the sidelines of a book release function here, he said: “I don't understand why they are on strike. There are no issues.” It was not a “strike.” The pilots were keeping away from work claiming they were ill. Whatever few issues they had, the Dharmadhikari report was meant to address them. “We have already started discussions.”

Mr. Singh pointed out that pilots did not give any strike notice and the court had called it ‘illegal.” He asked them to get back to work. He recalled his assurance to Parliament that the government would not be vindictive and listen to “their problems” if the pilots returned to work. “It seems they don't want to come back to work.”

Referring to the Cabinet nod for a Rs.30,000-crore package for making Air India viable, he said there were many milestones to be reached. “Nobody is going to give any more public money to Air India. Pilots need to understand that it was in their own interest to revive Air India.”

Asked how long the authorities would wait for pilots to come back, he said, “We are not waiting. We are making business plans.” Flights were beingoperated to 38 of the 45 destinations. It would take three to six months to train pilots on B 737 and A 320 aircraft. Besides, some pilots had been trained on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

On the opposition to allowing up to 49 per cent FDI in airlines, he said the government was talking to its allies. On the reported demand of some airlines to allow more than 49 per cent FDI, he said the Civil Aviation Act stipulated that the management should be Indian and majority of the Board of Directors should also be Indians.

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