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Private airlines call off August 18 strike

CNN-IBN
Aug 03, 2009 at 08:05am IST

New Delhi: Private domestic airlines have called off their August 18 strike, bowing to public and government pressure.

After IndiGo and Spicejet, Kingfisher and Jet Airways, too, fell in line on Sunday.

The decision to call off the strike was taken after the government cracked the whip and two airlines deserted the consortium.

But the Federation of Indian Airlines has claimed that the strike was called off in response to public outrage.

Speaking on behalf of Kingfisher, Jet Airways, GoAir, Spicejet and IndiGo, the Federation of Indian Airlines said, "In view of the agitated public sentiment and potential inconvenience to thousands of passengers on one hand and government's willingness to enter into dialogue, the FIA has decided to put on hold its decision to suspend flights on August 18."

"The FIA hopes that constructive dialogue with government will lead to redressal of the problems faced by the aviation industry," the FIA statement said.

The strike called with the intention of arm-twisting the government into giving private airlines a bailout ran out of fuel, when low-cost carrier IndiGo opted out on Saturday night.

IndiGo said it believed in engaging in a dialogue with the government and less than 24 hours later, SpiceJet jumped ship

"They were stupid in calling for a strike. In fact I said that if the government can invoke ESMA against the truckers today i think in my opinion Airbus is nothing but a bus and they should do the same thing and put them behind bars," said Captain GR Gopinath, founder of Air Deccan.

The decision to go on strike may be off the table but issues bothering the private carriers are not.

"There is a legitimate case to look at the high structural cost and remove this negative fiscal regime on the airlines. If the FIA is serious about it they need to engage with the Finance Ministry and the state ministries on a continuous basis," aviation expert Kapil Kaul said.

Round one has gone to Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel who threatened to take stern action against those who would go ahead with the strike.

The government has been saying all along that giving private loss-making airlines a bailout package is not an option.

A relief for the airline industry could come in the form of a lower tax regime, but the Finance Ministry has opposed such measures so far.

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