Jet Airways on Saturday cancelled 281 flights, 21 of them international, as the strike by the pilots entered the fifth day after marathon talks between them and the management ended in a deadlock.

The pilots said they were “hopeful” of a breakthrough today as negotiations between the management and National Aviators’ Guild (NAG), the union leading the agitation over sacking of some pilots, will resume in Mumbai this evening.

“We have cancelled 281 flights for the day. Of these, 260 are domestic and 21 international,” a Jet spokesperson told PTI. The private carrier operates 365 domestic and 74 international flights daily.

The spokesperson, however, did not give the number of pilots who reported sick today. Jet had yesterday said 495 out the total 1,056 pilots had not joined duty, reporting sick.

On Friday, the pilots and the management representatives sat for face-to-face negotiations for the first time since the stir started on Tuesday, but the nine-hour-long talks before the Chief Labour Commissioner in Delhi ended inconclusively.

The pilots, before heading for negotiations on Saturday, would discuss Friday’s development among themselves.

The Guild is demanding reinstatement of four sacked pilots, two of them fired from service during the stir that began on September 8, but the management is insisting on dissolving the union before taking them back.

According to Capt Girish Kaushik, the president of the pilots’ body National Aviators Guild (NAG) leading the stir, the pilots will not resume work “as of now” and the agitation will continue.

He said he was “hopeful” of resolving the issue soon.

“The management is ready to take back four sacked pilots but wants pre—conditions to be applied to the NAG,” a member of the pilots’ union said. “But we want the law of the land to dictate the fate of NAG,” he said.

A solution to end the stir which had severely disrupted flights affecting thousands of passengers was widely expected on the first day of conciliation talks yesterday especially after the two sides were reported to have worked out a broad understanding on Thursday night to break the impasse.

Sources said the talks saw a lot of hard bargaining by the two sides especially over issues which have a larger impact on the employees of the private airline.

Jet on Saturday tried to accommodate some of its passengers in its low—cost arm JetLite by combining the flights on Mumbai— Ahmedabad, Mumbai—Vadodara, Mumbai—Kochi, Mumbai—Mangalore, Kolkata—Bangalore, Kolkata—Guwahati, Mumbai—Mangalore and Kolkata—Agartala sectors.

The airlines also merged their Chennai—Mumbai and Bangalore—Mumbai to fly on Bangalore—Chennai—Mumbai sector.

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