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Resume duty today or face action, Air India pilots told

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LEFT HIGH AND DRY: Air India passengers travelling from Muscat to Patna wait with baggage at the New Delhi airport on Tuesday, the fourth day of the agitation by executive pilots.
LEFT HIGH AND DRY: Air India passengers travelling from Muscat to Patna wait with baggage at the New Delhi airport on Tuesday, the fourth day of the agitation by executive pilots.

Vinay Kumar

Management will be free to exercise options, says Praful Patel

Order on PLI yet to be implemented

Air India forced to cancel about 80 flights

NEW DELHI: As the agitation by executive pilots of public sector Air India entered the fourth day on Tuesday, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel appealed to them to resume duty immediately, put an end to the inconvenience of the travelling public and help restore normal operations of the national carrier.

In a veiled warning, the Minister said the Air India management would be free to exercise any option if the agitating pilots did not report for duty by Wednesday.

Till late in the night, the pilots did not appear to be in a mood to give in and about 20 more joined the agitation in Mumbai, taking the total number of executive pilots reporting sick to about 190. Air India was forced to cancel about 80 flights, including some on international routes like the non-stop service to New York and onward connection to Chicago.

Mr. Patel maintained that the controversial decision on Productivity-Linked Incentive (PLI) that had acted as a trigger for the executive pilots to start their agitation had not been implemented as yet.

Showing the September 27 Air India order, he said the earlier order of September 24 about the cut in PLI was being modified and that would be discussed with a committee of executive pilots before being finalised.

“No reason for strike”

“In the light of this order which has kept the earlier order in abeyance, I see no reason for the executive pilots to report sick and not come to duty. There is no issue now and there is no reason to feel aggrieved. I appeal to them to resume their duties,” he said. The Minister said the airline had not faulted on payment of salaries and PLI till now even while being in the financial doldrums.

Mr. Patel’s appeal came within hours of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh taking stock of the situation arising out of the agitation. Dr. Singh was apprised of the developments by Civil Aviation Secretary M. M. Nambiar and Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav.

The Minister revealed that an executive pilot of Deputy General Manager rank drew total emoluments of Rs. 6,30,764 a month which included Rs. 5,75,308 as PLI and Rs. 55,456 as pay and allowances.

Air India has suspended the booking of tickets till further notice and decided to cancel a majority of its morning flights in a bid to avoid inconvenience to the passengers. The cash-strapped national carrier is estimated to be incurring losses of around Rs. 12 crore daily due to cancellation of flights and the fall in the number of bookings.

“The number of bookings have gone down from 32,000 to 14,000 per day and we are incurring losses of 30 per cent of our total revenue of Rs.40 crore everyday,” Mr. Jadhav said. The proposed cut in the PLIs was an “essential” step for the turnaround of the company, he added. The plan was submitted to banks and financial institutions and they asked about what the employees would forego.

“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,” Mr. Jadhav said.

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