Air India pilot strikes disrupt Gulf flights
Flights between Gulf states and India have been disrupted this week amid strikes by Air India pilots.
Protests at the state-owned airline have entered their second day yesterday, with pilots angered over a recent decision on training for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes.
According to the airline’s website, flight AI923 from Calicut to Riyadh, AI920 from Riyadh to Mumbai and AI962 from Jeddah to Calicut were all cancelled yesterday.
Air India Express flights from Thiruvananthapuram to Muscat and from Sharjah to Calicut were also cancelled, media reports said.
The dispute began when dozens of pilots called in sick on Tuesday in protest against the airline’s decision to train pilots from India Airlines - which merged with Air India in 2007 - to fly the new Dreamliner aircrafts.
The pilots said the planes were ordered before the merger, and therefore they should be the preferred choice for training.
The carrier responded by firing 10 pilots, after the civil aviation minister Ajit Singh called the strike "illegal".
International flights between Singapore, New York, Newark, Toronto and Hong Kong were also affected by the strike action.
The spat comes at at time when Air India is already grappling with escalating financial losses.
According to media reports, the airline has accumulated losses of over INR200bn (US$3.76bn) since its tie-up with Indian Airlines, and has seen repeated employee strikes due to delayed salary payments.
Earlier this year, planes were also grounded after oil companies declined to deliver fuel over non-payment of fees.