AI pilots' strike enters 13th day, passengers worst hit
Mumbai/New Delhi/Lucknow, May 20 (ANI): As the strike by Air India pilots entered its thirteenth day on Sunday, passengers of the national carrier were left stranded at the airports due to cancellation of flights.
Mohammad Asif, a passenger, today said passengers had to face many problems because of the cancellation of flights, and added that airport authorities were not paying heed to their plight.
"I am here in Bombay (Mumbai) for the past one week. None of my relatives live here and they (airport authorities) are not informing anything. They are not renewing the tickets. They are saying that after the strike gets over then they would do it. We are facing problems over here. We have to pay the hotel bills too. We have to live in guesthouse," said Asif.
Scores of commuters were seen waiting near booking offices at Mumbai airport.
"I had my flight on May 13 at 4.15 am (local time). It has not yet been confirmed (once it was cancelled). I am here for the past five-six days and nobody (airport authorities) is paying heed to our plights. They keep on delaying everyday. We don't have the money right now to spend on food," said Shiv Prakash, another passenger.
He also pointed out that no alternative arrangements have been made for the passengers by airlines authorities.
Meanwhile, travellers in New Delhi blamed airport authorities for turning a deaf ear to their grievances and plight.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had earlier on Saturday once again appealed to the striking pilots to return to work.
Talking to media after inaugurating the new terminal at Chaudhary Charan Singh airport in Lucknow, Singh said that the strike by pilots was illegal, and they should come back to work in the larger interest of the passengers.
"When Justice Dharmadhikari committee report is expected there is no reason for the strike and the pilots should come back to work," he added.
He assured that there will be no victimization by the government and management will look into the problems of the pilots.
Asserting that the Delhi High Court had already declared the ongoing strike as illegal, Singh said: "More recently, a two-judge bench of the Delhi high court rejected the pilots' plea challenging the earlier verdict. This is a peak time for airlines and the pilots should have stayed away from striking work."
"The government recently approved a Rs.30,000 crore package for Air India for the next 10 years.. The pilots have not just jeopardized their jobs, but that of all Air India employees. They should have some loyalty towards passengers and Air India. How will they get their dues and salaries if Air India does not survive? They should have met me before going on a strike," he added.
About 500 Air India pilots who fly international routes have been demanding that their colleagues from Indian Airlines should not be trained to fly Dreamliners, as they believe it may hurt the career prospects of original Air India staff.
Both companies were merged in 2007, but there have been problems with integration. Air India's purchase of Dreamliners was also criticised by a central auditor last year for "imposing an undue long-term financial burden".
The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) had on April 25 decided to raise airport fares, including User Development Fee (UDF), by 346 percent for two years.
The newly introduced UDF at the Delhi airport seems to be upsetting many. Passengers and airlines would now have to pay 346 percent more as compared to what they paid to the airport operator-the GMR Group-along with its consortium.
As per the airports regulator order, the UDF for international travel would be rupees 845.50 for outgoing passengers travelling between 2,000 -5,000 kilometres and Rupees 699.17 for incoming ones.
For those traveling beyond 5,000 kilometres, the UDF would be rupees 1,068 for outgoing and rupees 881.10 for incoming. (ANI)
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