Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Wednesday said the government might consider downsizing national carrier Air India if the agitation by the pilots continues.
"Government has given them (Rs.) 30,000 crore of public money, but that is not without strings. They have to prove their worth. Let me point out the example of Kingfisher. They downsized, and since then, they are doing fine. Air India only has 17 per cent market share. The pilots must look at this also," he said.
Indian Pilots Guild President Jitendra Awhad has said the pilots are ready to go back to work if 99 per cent of their demands are met. He also accused the government of closing its doors to talks on the pilots' demands, a charge denied by Ajit Singh.
The cash-strapped national career has sacked 10 agitating pilots, derecognised their union, the Indian Pilots Guild, and sealed its offices as around 160 pilots failed to join duty.
Air India issued a statement on Tuesday night. It says, "The pilots chose to deliberately damage the image and reputation of the company by disrupting flights by proceeding on mass sick leave. This most extreme and irresponsible agitation aimed at disrupting flight schedules and inflicting inconvenience on our esteemed passengers. As a consequence, Air India has derecognized the Indian Pilots Guild and sealed its offices. It has also terminated the services of and dismissed ten office bearers of the Guild."
The pilots met the Chief Labour Commissioner on Tuesday to find a way out but talks were inconclusive.
The pilots' move had forced the airline to cancel more than five international flights since Monday night. Confusion prevailed at the Delhi Airport on Tuesday with many passengers waiting to fly out. It was the same story in Mumbai.
One flight was delayed and two international flights were cancelled on Wednesday morning. (ANI)