Air India nightmare continues
Desperate to keep its popular international
routes running, Air India continues to
reschedule and delay flights even as strike
continues, reports Vrushali Lad
n the face of the continued standoff with its pilots, Air India is trying its
best to limit losses.
About 300 of the Indian national carrier’s pilots struck work starting
May 7, and 76 were sacked at last count. The airline is reportedly losing
revenue to the tune of Rs 100 million ($1.82 million) a day.
While most flights on the popular long haul routes to the United States,
Europe and Canada remain either cancelled or scheduled after inter-
minable delays, the airline is trying to restore complete working on routes
destined for Singapore, Paris and Riyadh.
Faced with a tremendous backlog of flights, refunds and last-minute
bookings on the first available AI flight to India or out, Air India had can-
celled (at press time) at least 19 flights destined for international routes
like Hong Kong, Newark, Tokyo, London, Riyadh, Seoul, Toronto and
Osaka up to May 21.
Other flight routes were being combined to accommodate the waiting list
of scheduled passengers. Passengers held back by flight cancellations chose
to take the first available AI flight from other places.
“My family and I made a hasty dash
from Denver to Frankfurt, from
where we got the flight to Mumbai,”
said Mumbai resident Prathamesh
Jhavar. “Our flight was to leave from
Newark May 16, but we learnt that it
was cancelled. When a friend called
us from Mumbai to tell us that an AI
flight was leaving from Frankfurt, we
dashed there the same night.”
Jitendra Awhad, who leads the
Indian Pilots’ Guild, the union that is
on strike and which has been subse-
quently derecognized by the govern-
ment, told India Abroad that there
had been “no effort” from the govern-
ment at negotiating with the pilots.
The Delhi high court also dis-
missed the IPG’s plea challenging the
ex-parte court order of May 9 declar-
ing the strike illegal.
But Awhad said, “The strike is still
on, and it will be on till the govern-
ment sits down with us to discuss the
Foreign carriers tap AI’s lost biz, airfares shoot up.
Mihir Mishra and Aneesh Phadnis report
Air India’s woes have translated into good news for competing international carri- ers. With the airline forced to cancel
flights because of the pilots’ agitation, fares in
the international sector have shot up.
The average fare rise has been 20 percent and
several passengers are finding it difficult to get a
“Air India has cancelled flights on internation-
al routes to Europe and the US and short-haul
routes to Hong Kong and Singapore. With the
cancellations, fares have increased 20 percent.
Owing to a demand-supply mismatch, all the
airlines are seeing an increase in revenues,” said
Siddharth Mehta, who heads the air product
vertical at online travel portal Makemytrip.com.
“Jet Airways is the only Indian carrier that has a
strong presence in the international sector. So,
foreign carriers will gain the most from Air
India’s flight cancellations.”
Air India had cancelled at least 19 flights destined for international routes like Hong Kong, Newark, Tokyo, London, Riyadh, Seoul, Toronto and Osaka up to May 21
Air India is the largest Indian carrier in the
international sector in terms of passenger car-
riage. It commands 20 percent market share in
the sector and offers nearly 50 percent of total
seats offered by Indian carriers in the sector.
Indian carriers flying abroad offer 200,000
seats a week. Of that, around 100,000 seats are
offered by the state carrier. International carri-
ers, on the other hand, offer 340,000 seats a
“Seats are not easily available on flights to
London, Europe and the US and those available
are at higher fares.
Those who have booked group tickets on Air
India are also facing problems. These are dis-
counted tickets and now with Air India flights
cancelled they have to book on other airlines
and tour costs are rising,” said Pradip Lulla, ex-
president, Travel Agents Federation of India.
The long-haul international sector to the US
is impacted the most, as Air India is the only
carrier, apart from US-based United, that
offers direct flights. All others offer connec-
tivity through their hubs. Jet Airways also
offers connectivity to the US through its
hub in Brussels.
While the minimum return fare between
Mumbai and Newark was around Rs
90,000 ($1,600) before the agitation, it has
now hit Rs 107,000 ($2,000).
Rajji Rai, ex-president of Travel Agents
Association of India, said, “Air India is the
only Indian carrier that offers direct flights
to the US and Canada and people prefer it.
In case of its cancellation, a different set of
Mehta said the problem would continue
even after the strike was called off.
“The strike happened in peak season.
Even after the strike gets called off, the airline will take a lot of time to normalise operations, as it will have to clear the backlog,”
By arrangement with Business Standard
PUNI T PARANJPE/REU TERS
University of South Florida awards Narayana Murthy
Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy has been felicitated
with the Global Leadership and Free Enterprise awards by
the University of South Florida in recognition of his entrepreneurial spirit.
The two awards were presented to by Judy Genshaft,
president, USF, in Tampa, Florida.
In his interaction with the USF students, Murthy talked
about his current duties as Infosys’s chairman emeritus,
which keeps him busy though not involved in the day-to-day operations, and then engaged in a question and answer
He recounted details of the impact of changes in the tech
world that ‘transformed the entire scenario’ for corporations and ‘opened up unlimited and enormous opportunities,’ most significantly the introduction of super computers
and online transaction capabilities.
Maria Valentino, who mentioned how impressed she was
with the business culture she found during her visit to
Infosys as a student, asked how his company managed to
maintain its values.
Murthy responded that it was because of his middle-class
background. ‘You need a spirit of sacrifice and you need to
have trust,’ he added.
He explained how the company’s ethos has its roots in the
very first meeting held at his house in Mumbai with his six
fellow founders. Their discussion was focused on prof-