The strike by Air India pilots became the second longest stir in India's aviation history when it entered the 57th day Monday even as the pilots of a private Indian airline -- Kingfisher -- called for a strike to protest against the non-payment of their salaries.
The Air India pilots, under the aegis of the now-derecognized Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), started their strike May 8, demanding parity in wages and career progression. There is no sign of an end to the strike since both the striking pilots and the Air India management refuse to budge.
The notorious distinction of holding the longest strike by pilots in India also goes to IPG for its strike in 1974. The strike against the cost cutting measures then lasted for more than 90 days. In 1993-94, Air India flight engineers struck work for 56 days.
Eleven of the 400 striking pilots have been on an indefinite hunger strike from June 24 to get their demands fulfilled immediately, and five of them have been hospitalized till now.
Meanwhile, the airline announced that its passenger traffic has increased despite the strike. The airline said that its passenger traffic increased by three percent and the revenue saw a growth of 5 percent in the first 20 days of June, compared to the same period a year ago.
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Despite the 55-day-old strike by the pilots, Air India carried more than 716,000 passengers during the first 20 days of June -- a rise of three percent, and our revenue increased by five percent, between June 1 and June 22, to Rs 6.09 billion from Rs 5.82 billion compared to the corresponding period of 2011, PTI news agency quoted a senior Air India official as saying.
Meanwhile, liquor baron Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines is in fresh trouble as its pilots have called for a strike to protest against the non-payment of salaries in the last five months. The cash-strapped airline is near bankruptcy and has defaulted on payments to its vendors, lenders and the tax department, in addition to the non-payment of salaries to the employees.
The airline has been demanding a revival package from the government. Bankers have been resisting to bailout the airliner unless its promoters agreed to bring in a fresh capital of Rs 20 billion.
The airline is running on a contingency schedule, truncating most of its services. It is managing to fly the limited schedules with the help of the executive pilots.
Meanwhile, in an interesting development, a debt fund promoted by SREI Infrastructure Finance has bought Rs 4 billion worth of Kingfisher Airlines' debt from ICICI Bank.
There was an opportunity because of the various securities package and returns which were coming along with it, so based on that, the fund saw an opportunity, SREI's vice-chairman Sunil Kanoria told CNBC-TV18, justifying the move.