Pilotsí strike bogs down Air India in international skies

Air India is on the verge of ceding its leadership position in the international skies to Jet Airways. The 58-day long strike by its pilots proved costly for the national carrier whose market share fell to 15.80 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal compared to 16.43 per cent in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal, according to an Airports Authority of India (AAI) data.

Close on the heels of Air India and Jet Airways is foreign airline Emirates, which has steadily gained market share.

During the three months, Jet Airways, so far the second largest carrier of passengers from India, ramped up its market share to 14.30 per cent compared to 13.71 per cent during Q4 of the last fiscal. Emirates also increased its market share to 12.12 per cent from 11.50 per cent during the same quarter. Other international carriers, including Qatar Airways and Air Arabia also gained market share during this period, almost entirely at Air India's expense.

The increase in share of these airlines have come during a non-peak quarter for international traffic compared to the Jan-March quarter.

According to AAI data, Air India operated 5.25 per cent less international flights in May 2012, compared to 2011 and 15.92 per cent less in June 2012 as compared to June 2011.

The primary reason for the fall in the national carrier's market share in the international sector was the 58-day-long agitation by the pilots, who flew wide-body planes in the international sector.

Over 300 of the 410 pilots from Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG) did not report to duty in a show of opposition against the airline's decision to train pilots from erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India on a 1:1 configuration. The IPG also demanded exclusive rights for operating the to-be-inducted Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

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