NEW DELHI, April 29 � Thousands of passengers were stranded today as striking Air India pilots refused to return to work for the third day ignoring stern warning of sacking by the management and the Delhi High Court�s decision to initiate contempt proceedings against them, reports PTI.
The AI management ordered the pilots to report for duty failing which it said the airline �is at liberty to take any action as deemed fit including termination of services�.
�This is without prejudice to any further action management may take under any other law of the land,� a notice by the management to the agitators said. The deadline for pilots to resume duty expired at 5 pm today.
Tougher options of clamping Essential Services Maintenance Act and a lockout were also being mulled, official sources said.
The management has so far terminated the services of seven pilots and suspended six others.
Taking strong exception to the agitating pilots defying its order to resume work immediately, the Delhi High Court decided to initiate contempt proceedings against them.
Ignoring the threat, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) leaders said they would continue their strike till the management gave an assurance that they were willing to resolve the issues in a time-bound manner.
�We are more than willing to call off the strike if the government is ready to look into the issues we have raised,� ICPA General Secretary Rishabh Kapur said in Mumbai.
The strike, which began on Tuesday midnight, has forced the cancellation of about 300 flights and led to an estimated operational loss of Rs 26.5 crore, an AI official said.
Air India operated only 50 of its 320 daily flights, though some large, wide-body planes like jumbo Boeing 747 and Boeing 777s were used to carry more passengers.
The sources said the airline could consider taking pilots from other Indian carriers �on loan� to meet the crisis. �We are looking at getting at least 20 sets (a total of 40) pilots�.
The pilots from other airlines would have to be trained to operate same type of Airbus A-320 aircraft as Air India has for domestic operations.
In this context, Air India could make a request to its competitors like Kingfisher and IndiGo which fly mostly similar planes, the sources said.
The contempt proceedings in the High Court were taken up suo motu by Justice Geeta Mittal that despite its order the pilots have not called off the strike and the passengers were hard pressed.
�It is clearly evident that the conduct of pilots is brazen and wilful and smacks of sheer arrogance ...There is complete lack of respect for the court orders�, she said.