Air India flights hit by flash strike

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Stranded passengers wait at the Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi on Tuesday.
Stranded passengers wait at the Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi on Tuesday.

Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: As a flash strike by a large number of staffers protesting the delay in payment of their May salaries led to cancellation of about 18 Air India flights, including some on the international sector, the management of the national flag carrier on Tuesday appealed to the agitators to return to work at “this hour of crisis” following last week's Mangalore air crash that claimed 158 lives.

Confirming that several flights across different regions were cancelled or delayed, an official statement said Air India was “making every possible effort to maintain normalcy in operations.”

“The airline has been able to operate 116 of the 123 scheduled flights on the network till Tuesday afternoon. While there have been four cancellations, some flights have been delayed or combined,” it said. While flights from the major metro cities were not affected, there were a few dislocations at some of the non-metro airports.

Referring to the tragic accident, Air India said: “In this hour of crisis, the management earnestly appeals to all sections of employees to join hands to strengthen the airline and maintain high performance to show that Air India can cope up with any emergency.”

“Air India, as befits its role of a national carrier, is committed to ensuring that genuine aspirations of all sections of the employees will be met. The company has a well-established system of dealing with any grievance — be it of an individual employee or groups of employees,” the statement said.

Maintaining it had mustered all available resources to minimise the impact on the scheduled operations, Air India extended an “unqualified apology to the passengers who have faced or may be facing inconveniences due to the dislocated operations.”

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel held a meeting with Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav to take stock of the situation, official sources said. At least 16 flights were cancelled as a section of employees, including engineers, went on the flash strike across the country. Three flights each from Kolkata and Mumbai and five from Delhi were cancelled.

“We have begun a flash strike to protest the delay in payment of salaries and highlight the problems of the cabin crew, after the management refused to pay heed to our demands,” Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU) general secretary J.B. Kadian said.

Air India recently decided that the May salaries would be delayed by a week. Mr. Kadian said the management had issued a “gag order” against leaders of all unions of Air-India by asking them not to go public with their problems and termed the move “anti-democratic.”

The ACEU claims the representation of 12,000 members of the erstwhile Indian Airlines, including ground-handling and technical staff and cabin crew.

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