Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pilot Strike Affects Air Freight Cargo

Domestic Flights Appear Hardest Hit
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – There is no end in sight to the conflict between striking air crew and Air India (AI) management as the situation deteriorated further yesterday with management apparently refusing to pay April salaries to pilots unavailable for work and passenger and air freight schedules decimated by the industrial action. Cargo flights were among the 90% of domestic service cancellations yesterday as the situation worsened and around 30% of revenue on passenger flights comes from freight carried in the holds of the company’s planes.

The strike is now in its eighth day and both sides appear to be more entrenched than ever with the staff demanding four key changes, re-recognition of the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) which is leading the strike; reinstatement for suspended pilots; parity of pay and conditions with former Indian Airline (IA) workers after the two flag carriers officially merged in February (in January it was IA pilots demanding parity with AI) and, probably the most contentious point, a full investigation into corruption allegations the Air India pilots have made against certain members of management.

Yesterday the High Court in Delhi criticised both sides for apparently having no will to resolve the situation and issued contempt of Court notices to several strikers whilst the government minister responsible for the aviation sector dismissed pilot demands with the exception of reviewing union recognition. The union wants pilots to receive salaried pay for 75 hours flying per month as a minimum, plus other benefits and, with no love lost between either party, this dispute is set to continue for quite some time.