New Delhi: Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Tuesday said that Air India will have to perform to get a bailout package from the government and that it was the last chance for the national carrier.
The civil aviation minister informed Parliament that Air India lost Rs 150 crore due to ongoing strike of the pilots. He further urged the pilots to get back to work, saying "if pilots report back to duty, Air India management won't be vindictive".
"The government promises striking pilots to look into their grievances unconditionally, but asks them to report back on duty," said Ajit Singh.
The Civil Aviation Minister said that if the pilots report back to duty, Air India management won\'t be vindictive.
This came hours after as many as 10 of the 34 international routes were cancelled due to the ongoing strike by the pilots.
"Strike is not an answer to solve your grievances .... All the grievances will be heard unconditionally. You come to talks unconditionally ... please go back to work," Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said, appealing to the pilots while replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on the civil aviation sector and Air India.
"Air India management will in no way be vindictive towards any employee .... a lot of young people have just joined (as pilots). But the first priority should be that passengers are not inconvenienced," he said.
His response came as members, cutting across party lines, wanted an immediate end to the pilots' agitation and expressed concern over the health of Air India, while questioning the decision of merging the two erstwhile state-run carriers - Air India and Indian Airlines.
Singh told the House that Air India, which was already "almost bankrupt", had lost Rs 150 crore due to the strike which completed eight days. Its credibility was also affected.
Regretting that pilots had resorted to strike during peak season, he said the government had announced Rs 30,000 crore as bailout package over eight years.
"This is bailout is not without strings. They have to meet strict standards. If they meet these standards, then we will release public money. We can't keep pouring public money. This is the last chance for them to perform," the Minister said, seeking cooperation of all employees in this regard.
The frequency of flights on eight routes has been reduced from seven to two per week.
The routes that have been cancelled include Mumbai-Newark, Delhi-Toronto, Mumbai-London, Delhi-Hong Kong-Seoul and Delhi-Hong Kong-Osaka.
Besides, the national carrier has reduced frequencies of flights on routes such as Mumbai-Riyadh, Delhi-Tokyo, Delhi-Shanghai and Delhi-Riyadh.
The contingency plan by Air India came hours after a privilege motion was moved against Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh by the JDU, the BJP and the CPM for speaking outside the House while Parliament is in session.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)