Strike forces Air India to suspend ticket sales

NEW DELHI, September 29, 2009 (AFP) – Air India said on Tuesday that about half of its international flights had been cancelled due to a strike by pilots and announced a suspension of new bookings. Nine out of 21 international flights and 37 out of 177 domestic flights were scrapped, spokesman Jitender Bhargava said, after pilots in three major cities called in sick for the fourth day after talks to end the dispute broke down.

“We have stopped taking bookings temporarily till mid-October,” Bhargava told AFP. “This is to make sure inconvenience to passengers is avoided and we have surety of flights operating.”

Overnight talks between the company and the non-unionised senior pilots, who are protesting a slash in performance-based incentive pay, failed to make headway with about 180 pilots reporting sick on Tuesday, Bhargava said.

An earlier statement by Air India said the pilots’ refusal to accept bonus cuts was “unacceptable” and that “all options are being kept open.”

But chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav told reporters there was no chance of a lockout and urged pilots who had called in sick to “come back quickly and restore normalcy for the benefit of the passen