x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

No Air India bookings for 'foreseeable future'

Company cancels all flights to and from UAE due to pilots' strike.

DUBAI // Most, if not all, Air India flights to and from the UAE are expected to be cancelled this weekend as the pay dispute between management and striking pilots continues into a second week.

Staff at the state-owned carrier's office at Dubai Airport said all eight of yesterday's flights in and out of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain had been cancelled.

They said no new bookings would be accepted for the foreseeable future as more than 600 pilots with the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) union continue their strike, which began on April 27.

"This has been the situation for the last week or so and we have no idea when it's likely to be resolved," said an Air India official who did not wish to be named. "I can't tell you when it's going to get sorted."

He said all routes, which include flights to and from Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Goa, were affected. "We aren't taking new bookings and I can't say when the earliest you could book will be. There is no chance of booking over the next two to three days."

Those who have already booked for cancelled flights are being found alternatives on other airlines, charter aircraft and larger planes where possible. But they have endured an uncertain week, waiting to learn whether they would be able to make their trips.

"I booked a flight to Hyderabad on May 9 a week or so ago and I'm getting a little worried," said Adnan bin Sabith, a 27-year-old Indian who was waiting yesterday at the airline's office on Al Maktoum Street in Deira.

"I'm not getting any answers and the staff have told me that they aren't handling flights to Hyderabad, so I have to go to a different office. I need to know if I'll be able to fly on that date otherwise I need to book something else."

He was among a dozen people who had turned up hoping for news about whether they would be able to travel to India.

"They just keep telling me that they can't confirm anything at the moment," said a 27-year-old man who did not want to be named. "I'm just fed up with the whole thing."

The dispute stems from the 2007 merger between Indian Airways and Air India.

The ICPA says pilots who were previously employed by India Airways are paid less than their colleagues. Air India says the strike is illegal because it is subject to an ongoing tribunal.

Contempt of court proceedings were taken against the ICPA on Tuesday.

No one from Air India's Dubai office or the headquarters in India could be contacted for comment.