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Jet Airways - Pilots Dispute Drags On

Jet Airways cancels more than half its flights for a second day in a row

Sep 10, 2009

Jet Airways Ltd., the country’s largest carrier by market value, canceled more than half its flights for a second consecutive day as an ongoing labor dispute with the airline’s pilots stranded travelers.

The carrier scrapped 206 flights for today, 174 of which were domestic destinations, Hameed Ali, the airline’s chief operating officer, said in Mumbai today. The airline is asking the pilots to come back to work, he said.

A total of 432 pilots reported sick today protesting the airline’s firing of pilots. Jet Airways is in conciliation discussions with the striking union, and Chairman Naresh Goyal has threatened to shut down the airline, the Economic Times reported today, citing Goyal.

“Businesses will get affected if the strike is not dealt with firmly,” said A.S. Thiyaga Rajan, managing director of Aquarius Investment Advisors Pte in Singapore. “The government should take a strong view of this.” Rajan, who manages $250 million of assets, doesn’t own shares in the airline.

Pilots belonging to the National Aviator’s Guild, a newly formed union, are calling in sick and demanding the airline reinstate five pilots who were fired. Girish Kaushik, president of the union, said in an interview today he’s hopeful of finding a solution and was prepared to meet with Goyal to end the crisis. Ragini Chopra, a spokeswoman for the carrier, said the airline has fired four pilots.

‘Simulated Strike’

A total of 163 captains and 198 first officers reported sick yesterday, the airline said in a statement. Other carriers are arranging for the transport of stranded passengers, Sudheer Raghavan, chief commercial officer, said in Mumbai today.

“This significant increase in the percentage of pilots reporting sick and disrupting flights is regarded by the airline as a simulated strike,” it said. The Mumbai-based airline asked a court yesterday to force the pilots to return to work.

Jet Airways fell 0.2 percent to 262.85 rupees in Mumbai trading today. They earlier fell as much as 8 percent.

Yesterday’s stoppage stranded 13,000 passengers, according to the Indian government. The government asked Jet Airways to ensure that passengers were accommodated by other airlines, according to an official statement from India’s Press Information Bureau.

Any act by the pilots that results in canceling flights “would be treated as an act against the public interest,” the statement said.

Firing Employees

Passengers affected by the strike were arranged to travel on other airlines, Chopra said yesterday. Air India, the national carrier, said in a statement it is flying Jet Airways passengers stranded at various airports.

Jet Airways said Aug. 25 it got a strike notice from the National Aviator’s Guild. Three days later, the airline said in a separate statement that a labor commissioner had ruled that the union was under legal obligation not to proceed with a strike while a conciliation process was under way.

In October, the airline canceled a plan to fire as many as 1,900 employees, affecting its plans to cut expenses.

The strike has cut the international and domestic bookings for the carrier.

Domestic bookings are down to 14,000 a day from 23,000 usually, Raghavan said. International reservations are down to 9,500 a day from the usual 10,500, he said.

Jet Airways cancels more than half its flights for a second day in a row
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