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May 8, 2012

Strike by Air India pilots hits international operations

     Amritsar: A strike by pilots of the debt-laden national carrier, Air India, on Tuesday hits international air traffic, following failure of talks with the management on the issue of training for the Boeing-787 Dreamliner. According to media reports, more than 100 pilots reported sick since last night, leading to the cancellation of four international flights. Meanwhile, the pilots, who owed allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild, expressed their anger after the management took the decision to reschedule the training for the Dreamliner. Passengers, who were left stranded at the airport in Amritsar city of India 's northern Punjab state, expressed their ire over management's apathy, as their flight was cancelled at the last minute. "I was going to Toronto and I was very disappointed in this flight because they only told us like five minutes before. Now we have to do immigration. We have to do everything again and it's really annoying. We don't know about the stay. They have like one bus, we don't know if we are going to be here all night or what's going on. It's very irritating and I don't want to come back to Amritsar here," said Jaspreet Kaur, a passenger. Meanwhile, another passenger expressed his anguish over the strike and blamed the authorities over their failure to make alternative arrangements. "We had to go to Toronto in the Air India flight, but it was cancelled at the last moment. They had given us the boarding passes and then we were informed that the pilots have gone on a strike. How come the pilots have gone on a strike at the last moment?" said Navneet, a passenger. Similar scenes were witnessed at the Delhi and Mumbai airports as stranded passengers moved around with their luggage. The Indian Pilots Guild predicts this agitation to intensify in the coming days, with many more pilots planning to protest the management's attitude. During a meeting of the pilots with the authorities on Monday (May 07), the airline management asked the pilots to have patience and wait for a solution until the implementation of the Justice D M Dharamadhikari Committee report by the government. India 's flagship-carrier has been hit by high fuel costs and cut-throat competition that has beset the country's aviation industry, in which only one of six airlines is currently profitable. The cash-strapped airline, which owes about $500 million to oil companies and $240 million to airports, is currently negotiating for nearly $1 billion as compensation from Boeing for the delayed delivery. Boeing has disputed the airline's claim that the planemaker has promised to pay $500 million in compensation. The more than three-year delay has disrupted Air India 's plans and schedules, the carrier says.
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