Turbulence in the skies

Neeraj Gangal

A group of pilots at the beleaguered national carrier Air India demanding exclusive rights to fly new Boeing Dreamliners called off their 58-day strike in July, giving in to pressure from the government and a Delhi court order.

About 500 Air India pilots who fly international routes had been demanding that colleagues from the former Indian Airlines not be trained to fly the US-made Dreamliners fearing it could hurt their career prospects.

The Air India strike was second of the year, in an industry where the one-time No.2 carrier by domestic market share, Kingfisher Airlines, was already in the news for all the wrong reasons.

In February 2012, Kingfisher Airlines cancelled several flights and its aircraft were grounded due to employee strikes, triggered by the financial woes. By October, matters had grown worse – the airline had its license suspended by India's civil aviation authorities. The airline has never turned a profit and, according to the consultancy Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, has total debt estimated at about $2.5 billion.

With lenders and debtors such as airport authorities getting more vocal, the financial squeeze will only tighten. Liquor baron and Kingfisher boss, Vijay Mallya will be hoping the ‘Goods Times’ will return to his carrier by 2013.