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Air India was forced to cancel 90% of its domestic flights and additional international connections for four days in a row since half of its pilots are on strike. The pilots who mainly joined the airline through the merger with Indian Airline in 2007 claim they are still not receiving pay equal to that of the original Air India pilots.
Since Air India has been suspending many of its domestic routes and handed operations over to private providers like Kingfisher Airlines, the pay checks of pilots flying those routes have been gradually diminishing. The pilots' pay depends on their monthly flight time, the pilots on Air India domestic routes earn significantly less than their counterparts flying on international routes.
The Delhi High Court had ordered pilots to go back to work at 5 pm last Friday, but the 800 pilots on strike refused. As a result, the court filed contempt cases against three pilots, among them AS Bhinder, President of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, and Rishabh Kapur, the Association's General Secretary. The accused have not commented on the allegation that could land them in jail for up to six months.
Air India has been using airplanes as big as jumbo jets to up passenger numbers on the remaining domestic routes. At the Airline's Bangalore base there are currently only seven pilots flying, all of them are either on probation or contracted pilots. Since pilots have to take a mandatory day off after six work days, flights out of Bangalore might stop for an entire day.