Air India has suspended booking of tickets till further notice and decided to cancel a majority of its morning flights to cut down inconvenience caused to passengers by last minute cancellations in view of the ongoing agitation by the executive pilots.

“We have suspended the booking of tickets till further notice in order to save the passengers from inconvenience caused by the cancellations of flights due to the agitation,” Air India’s Chairman and Managing Director, Arvind Jadhav, told reporters here today.

The airline has also decided to cancel a majority of its morning flights, he said.

Rs. 12 crore lost daily

The national carrier is trying to normalise its operations after a section pilots started reporting “sick” in protest against the 50 per cent cut in their productivity-linked incentives and payment of flying allowance.

On the number of pilots who have reported sick in the last three days, Mr. Jadhav said “a total of 180 executive pilots, 109 of erstwhile Indian Airlines and 71 of erstwhile international carrier Air India, have reported sick.”

The cash-strapped national carrier is incurring losses of around Rs. 12 crore daily due to cancellation of flights and fall in the number of bookings.

“The number of bookings has gone down from 32,000 to 14,000 per day and we are incurring losses of 30 per cent of out total revenue of Rs. 40 crore everyday,” Mr. Jadhav said.

Terming the cut in the PLIs of the employees as an “essential” step for the turnaround of the company, Mr. Jadhav said: “We presented our turnaround plan to banks and financial institutions, they asked us about what sacrifices were being made by the employees."

"Rationalisation of incentives, a must"

“Rationalisation of PLIs was a must and the committee formed to look into the matter has not allowed us to cut more than 50 per cent,” he added when asked about the allegations of the agitating pilots that there would be 70 per cent cuts in their PLIs.

Mr. Jadhav said the total PLI expenditure had gone up from Rs. 1,000 crore to Rs. 1,500 crore in the last two years, of which 50 per cent accounted for the cabin and cockpit crew and the rest was paid to the other 26,000 employees.

Claiming that he had held discussions with all sections of employees and management over the PLI cut, Mr. Jadhav said he had written letters officially and held talks with the representatives of executive pilots as well.

To a query that only non-unionised pilots were being targetted for pay cuts, he said, “It is not so. We are taking a lot of measures to cut down our costs but they are not visible. Cut in the PLI of pilots and employees would be visible.”

Mr. Jadhav said a total of 152 flights were cancelled in the last three days by the airlines across the country. “Thirty-two flights were cancelled on day one, 42 were cancelled on the second day and 80 have been cancelled today,” he said.

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