UAE escapes Air India pilot strike

Wage row grounds flights but carrier tries to limit damage.

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DUBAI // Air India claims its flights are running to schedule in and out of the Emirates despite a pay strike by more than 600 pilots.

The carrier says no flights to the UAE have been affected by the dispute, which has seen 12 per cent of its services cancelled.

Media reports said 20 domestic Indian flights had been cancelled, including eight from Delhi and 11 from Mumbai. Several others were delayed for more than three hours when the pilots went on strike on Tuesday night.

"No flights have been affected coming into the UAE," said Abhay Pathak, the airline's regional manager based in Dubai.

He added that the situation was being monitored by staff.

The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) issued a strike notice on February 23 and went into discussions with management.

However, talks broke down and the final meeting between the two sides took place on Tuesday, which was followed by yesterday's industrial action.

The dispute stems from the company's creation in 2007, when the state-owned Indian Airlines and National Aviation Company of India (Air India) merged.

Pilots with the original Indian Airlines say their pay is lower than colleagues from Air India.

In a statement, the company said it was looking into the issue of pay parity between the former pilots of the two airlines and improved working conditions.

It said the strike was illegal because the issue was still being considered by a tribunal, which is headed by Shri Dharmadhikari, a retired supreme court judge.

The company wants its staff to stay on their pre-merger contracts until that panel has delivered its report.

"In view of this the management has de-recognised ICPA and sealed their offices," it said. "Meanwhile all efforts are being made to run the operations in a normal and smooth manner.

"So far only 12 per cent of the flights have been cancelled. A majority of passengers of these cancelled flights, as desired, were accommodated in other flights."