Air India gears up to counter pilots’ strike

The national carrier Air India has prepared a contingency plan to counter a strike threat by the 800 member-strong Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) to ensure that the impact of the strike on operations is minimal.

Top sources in Air India say that the contingency plan includes operating wide-body planes in the domestic and short-haul international routes, taking around 15 planes on wet lease — which comes with crew — and requesting Indian Air Force (IAF) for pilots on a short-term basis.

"We have a contingency plan in place. The commercial department has been asked to keep all approvals ready to take 15 planes on wet lease as soon as the pilots go on strike. Plus, we will also operating 13 long-haul aircraft that are not being used due to one reason or the other. Five of our planes will come from VIP fleet, We have two spare Airbus 330s and six Boeing 777s that are not being used currently because of their being fuel guzzlers," said a top source in Air India.

He further said that the plan will ensure that the impact of the strike is negligible and that there would be no impact on passengers.

"Things are looking good for Air India in all aspects, including revenues and any strike now would badly impact the revival of the airline. To bridge the shortage of pilots, we will put around 250 executive pilots for short haul fleet on duty and are also mulling an idea to hire pilots from IAF. These pilots can fly our planes after a day or two of training," said the source.

Meanwhile, ICPA is likely to take a call on going on strike in a meeting on Thursday. The union is demanding payment of salaries and flying allowances till date.

"We have not got our allowances for the last six months and salaries are just 50 per cent of our salary. This cannot go on like this, when we are making enough money and all our planes going full," said a pilot from the ICPA.

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