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Maharaja needs a leg up

It Is extremely irresponsible of the Air India pilots to have gone on strike yet again, thereby having crippled the airline, and causing massive disruptions of flights. Such a strike can cause irreparable loss to Air India, dealing it a body blow that can send it to the grave. The Delhi high court has rightly declared the strike to be illegal The airline pilots have protested the management’s decision to train pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airline to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. While this is a matter that requires to be looked into and possibly some of the grievances of the pilots may be genuine, this is not the way to go about seeking their redressal. The pilots should have used other and more conventional means to put forward their problems to the management. They should not have used industrial action to press forward their agenda.

The state of the airline is not hidden from the pilots. The airline is facing multiple problems and has been ailing in the recent past. It is on the one hand facing escalating financial losses while on the other hand it’s market share has been dropping largely due to competition from several private airlines. It has been accused of providing poor service and also faces employee dissatisfaction. It has accumulated huge debts so much so that it desperatedly needs the government bailout plans which have been recently offered to it. All attempts to restructure the airline may come to naught if it is crippled by additional factors such as the strike by pilots.

It is unfortunate but true that Air India has been ignored or even held down by the government ever since the privatisation plans of 2001 came to naught. It has been in the doldrums, especially in the last several years, ever since its merger with Indian while the government has actively encouraged the private players. Air India badly needs a revival plan and there have been signs that the state-owned airline had once again come on the scanner of the government when this airline pilots’ strike has struck it a body blow.

The government should effectively deal with the pilots’ grievances so that they do not come in the way of the larger turnaround plans. It is not a question of public or private ownership. It is a question of good corporate governance and sound policies. The airline has served India well in the past largely because of sound management policies. One of these is to meet employee grievances. The government and the management of Air India should sit together  and explore the reasons for employee disenchantment that is the cause for strikes and rapid employee turnover. The sky is the limit for the ailing airline provided wise policies are followed. All the Maharaja needs is a leg up.
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