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Friday 11 May 2012

Government of india All Set to hut Down Air India!Air India risks losing bailout as pilots agitate!Parliament may not stop this!Kingfisher Airlines faced fresh turbulence today when a section of its pilots in Delhi reported sick leading to cancellati

Government of india All Set to hut Down Air India!Air India risks losing bailout as pilots agitate!Parliament may not stop this!Kingfisher Airlines faced fresh turbulence today when a section of its pilots in Delhi reported sick leading to cancellation of 17 flights, adding to the woes of passengers hit by the stir by Air India pilots.

Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams, chapter 770

Palash Biswas

Government of india All Set to hut Down Air India!Parliament may not stop this!Meanwhile,Kingfisher Airlines faced fresh turbulence today when a section of its pilots in Delhi reported sick leading to cancellation of 17 flights, adding to the woes of passengers hit by the stir by Air India pilots.So far today 17 flights were cancelled as most of the Delhi-based pilots reported sick to protest non-payment of their salaries despite a written commitment by the chairman that January salary would start coming in from May 9," the airline sources told. As the Mumbai-based pilots are also expected to join their Delhi counterparts tomorrow, the woes of the Vijay Mallya-owned airline are set to get further aggravated. Air India on Thursday stopped bookings for the next five days on major international routes to US, Europe and South East Asia as 200 pilots struck work for the third successive day.Adding to the woes of fliers, a majority of Kingfisher Airlines Ltd's pilots are expected to abstain from duty from Thursday midnight even as 300 pilots of national flag carrier Air India Ltd reported sick on Thursday, forcing the airlines to cancel 17 flights.While Air India pilots are fighting for parity in salaries and career progression, Kingfisher Airlines employees are protesting a delay in the payment of their salaries. They have not been paid since January.The Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), the recognized trade-union of the pilots of erstwhile Air India, on Thursday said that they will appeal to Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The issue of strike by Air India pilots today resonated in Parliament with the Opposition accusing the government of committing a series of blunders, including merger, and pressing for urgent remedial steps. In the Lok Sabha, a short duration discussion on need to bring comprehensive policy changes in Civil Aviation sector took place during which opposition members said the problems afflicting Air India dated back to several years and that the entire aviation industry was on "ventilator". In the Rajya Sabha, BJP members, led by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi voiced concern over the Air India strike and said private airlines were taking undue advantage by substantially hiking the fares, thereby fleecing the passengers. Initiating the discussion in the Lok Sabha, Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) said by terminating the services of striking pilots government would not be able to achieve much and talks were the only means to end the stalemate. "The government is incapable to the extent that it can't put in order its own flagship is a long story of mismanagement, misappropriation, malpractice and patronisation of private players," he said. Dubbing the current situation of Air India as a "story of colossal blunder", he said politicians and " may be" ministers, bureaucrats and businessmen are to be blamed. Asking Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh not to get upset, Dasgupta - apparently referring to Vayalar Ravi - said a "good minister who was doing good work" was shunted out for "electoral gains" and to increase the UPA tally in Parliament. He said Air India and Indian Airlines were making profit and whenever there was a proposal to merge them, they started making losses

Separately, the airline's promoting company, United Breweries (Holdings) Ltd (UB) said in a statement that Kingfisher Airlines has ceased to be its subsidiary. This was a fall out of decline in the shareholding of the promoter as the carrier has allotted shares against optionally-convertible debentures to certain entities. UB has a huge exposure of over Rs. 12,000 crore to the carrier under various accounts including corporate guarantees to banks.

Meanwhile, the Air India management is taking a tough stand on the strike, and has fired 10 more pilots on Thursday, taking the total number of dismissed pilots to 46.

State-owned Air India risks losing a $5.8 billion (Rs 30,000 cr) government bailout, civil aviation minister said on Thursday, as industrial action by pilots disrupted flights for a fourth day.he national airline, which has been surviving on taxpayers' money, is scheduled to get  $1.3 (Rs 6,750 crore) billion in fresh equity from the government in the current fiscal year but this is linked to its performance.

The pilots of the cash-strapped airline are protesting the "backtracking" by the management on its "assurance" of remitting their January salaries from May 9. "Pilots need to understand that if Air India does not meet the performance yardsticks set in the plan, that money will not reach them. It's not a one-time deal," minister Ajit Singh told Reuters in an interview.

"The government is not going to keep on pouring money into Air India anymore," the minister said. "Nobody is indispensable."

"Air India is in a very bad financial situation. They are not able to pay their employees, they have not cleared airport dues," Singh said, adding that it owed billions of rupees to fuel suppliers.

About 500 Air India pilots who fly international routes have been demanding their colleagues from former state-owned partner Indian Airlines should not be trained to fly Dreamliners, as it may hurt the career prospects of original Air India staff.

The two companies were merged in 2007 but there have been problems with integration. Air India's purchase of Dreamliners was also criticised by a federal auditor last year for "imposing an undue long-term financial burden".

The government would not bow to the pilots' demand, Singh said.

"If a lot of pilots keep reporting sick ... it will cause disruption. But the prospect of disruption is not going to stop us from taking firm action," he said.

Singh said the government was open to private investment in the Air India, which has nearly a fifth of the domestic market, but it would take this up on a case-by-case basis.

"There are a lot of people trying to enter this market," the minister said.

"Air India has lots of assets, and I am not talking about only monetary assets. They have the routes, they have the pilots, they have the parking spots."

India's civil aviation industry is suffering under high fuel costs, low fares and a combined debt of $20 billion. Five of the country's six main carriers are losing money.Cash-strapped Air India was forced to cancel at least 30 flights on Thursday alone, after more than 150 pilots did not report to work, demanding exclusive rights to fly new Boeing Dreamliners.

"So the Delhi-based pilots decided to report sick from today at a meeting last night," the sources said.

The cancelled services from Delhi include flights to Shimla, Dehradun, Dharamshala and Jaipur--routes operated by turboprop aircraft.

The Kingfisher Chairman Vijay Mallya had assured the staff in his May 5 communication to them that their January salaries will be remitted from May 9. Last month also, Kingfisher management had said it would pay employees' December salaries between April 4 and April 9 in a phased manner, but some of the employees recieved their salaries as late as around April 24, the sources said.

Kingfisher Airlines has been facing financial troubles for almost a year now. The airline, which never made a profit since its inception in May 2005, reported a net loss of Rs 444.26 crore in the December quarter. It suffered a loss of Rs 1,027 crore in 2010-11 and has a debt of Rs7,057.08 crore. Due to the paucity of funds, the air carrier now operates only 110 flights a day with a fleet of 20 aircraft as against 400 flights per day last year with 66 planes. The airline had a 6.4 per cent market share in March, and was ranked below the budget carrier GoAir, which cornered 7.5 per cent market share in the same period.

On the other hand, Over 20 Air India flights were cancelled on Thursday from Delhi and Mumbai as the agitation by the protesting pilots entered the third day. Despite the Delhi High Court declaring their stir as illegal, the pilots remained defiant and said the agitation would continue till their demands were met. The crisis at state-owned carrier Air India worsened on Wednesday. About 400 agitating pilots failed to report to work for the second day disrupting flight schedules and leaving passengers stranded across airports in the country. Taking a cue from the civil aviation minister's tough spiel against the striking pilots on Tuesday, an angry management lashed at the truant pilots by sacking 10 more, taking the total number of sacked pilots to 20 in two days. The mass sacking of airline pilots is in itself a record in the country. The sackings on Tuesday were essentially of the committee members of the agitating unions while the pilots who were shown the door on Wednesday were a mixed lot.

Unfazed by a resolute management, the pilots refused to relent and return to their planes. Amid the rhetoric from the management and the striking pilots, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh did some tough talking in the capital threatening Air India of a closure if the pilots do not report back to work. "Government has given them 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% market share. The pilots must look at this also," he said, adding that government should try and keep out of service industry and that the time for national carriers is over.

As a result of the pilot stir, the debt-ridden airline was forced to cancel seven of its international flights, two from Mumbai and five from Delhi, including flights to New York, Frankfurt and Chicago. Air India has 50 international flights daily. The number of remaining pilots, 150, was insufficient to support full schedule of the airline.
"Three international departures from Mumbai and 8 from Delhi have been cancelled due to non-availability of pilots", an Air India official said.

Around 12 international arrivals at Delhi airport were also cancelled, according to the website of Delhi airport.

Passengers were inconvenienced as airline officials were unable to accommodate them in others flights or give any concrete information on when their flights will take off.

From Delhi flights to Frankfurt, Shanghai, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago and Seoul were cancelled while Air India flights to New York, Riyadh and Shanghai were not operating from Mumbai.

Taking a strong view of the agitation, the Air India management had yesterday sacked 26 more pilots. With this the number of sacked pilots has reached 36.

The pilots have been protesting against rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had yesterday told the pilots, "if you have grievances, we can talk, but discussions and disruptions cannot take place simultaneously. They should withdraw their strike and apologise to the passengers."

He said the government has "a back-up plan (to deal with strike)...We can downsize...If employees are not interested that Air India should expand, then government is not going to provide money to it."

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