New Delhi: May 2010. Passengers stranded at airports across the country when 1500 Air India employees went on strike. This could happen yet again, very soon.
About 800 pilots of what used to be called Indian Airlines say they're getting a raw deal. They want the same money that their counterparts in Air India are getting - nearly 50 per cent more. For the last three years they have been doing the same job as pilots with Air India - flying international airlines
But while Air India pilots have a fixed salary those working for Indian Airlines are paid by the hour. A lot of their time is spent in training - so flying hours automatically reduce, therefore the low salary.
Documents available exclusively to CNN-IBN show how precious man hours are being wasted. A pilot can fly upto 90 hours a month that makes it 1080 hours a year. But between the months of January to December 2010 most pilots flew for merely 600 hours because they were not rostered.
Some pilots have flown for as less as 100 hours a year. With nearly 800 pilots working for Indian airlines - that means a wastage of a whopping 40,000 man-hours.
The reply to this RTI filed by one of the pilots working for the national carrier also shows that on an average pilots have been flying for as less as 50 hours a month.
Whats made the pilots ever angrier are the advertisements asking for new pilots. Statement from ICPA says, "We are being underutilized. For the last three years we have been demanding pay parity with erstwhile air India. So far all our requests have fallen to deaf ears. Its not a problem with the airlines, it's a management problem. We don't want to inconvenience passengers so we are trying one last time to meet the new aviation minister. If that too doesn't work out we will have no choice but to go on a strike."
Air India's top management however chooses to play it safe. They said, "Pilots are a part of our large family. We are seized of their issues and would together resolve them amicably."
Hopefully they'll have a concrete solution soon. Another strike like this could sound the death knell for the already ailing maharaja.