Kingfisher Pilots Go On Strike, Air India Strike Continues

This week has been full of strikes for the Indian sector.

Air India’s pilot strike has entered its third day now, leading to mass cancellations and costing Air India hundreds of crores a day. As I explained in my post earlier this week, the Air India strike is pretty much because the pilots are unhappy that Air India is not giving in to their unreasonable demands. To the credit of Air India management, a hard stand has been taken. Over 40 pilots have been sacked, the union has been derecognized, and hopefully industrial peace will arrive soon. If not, the ICPA (pre-merger Indian Airlines pilots) have volunteered to fly the routes that the IPG (pre-merger Air India pilots) are refusing to fly. Hopefully, this strike will finish quickly, saving taxpayer money and allowing passengers to get to their destinations.

In terms of how Air India has handled the strike from a customer service perspective, it appears they have done a good job. For example, at Hyderabad, instead of delaying the flight 2 hours at a time, forcing pax to spend the night at the airport for the departure, the flights were cancelled off the bat. All pax were rebooked onto the next day’s service within 1 hour of scheduled departure. It appears that people were given the choice between being put up at the Marriott and getting a taxi voucher of some sort to go back home, which seems reasonable. This is a far cry from just a few years ago where high profile incidents of Air India delaying flights all night leaving passengers stranded at the airport were publicized widely. It is good that they seem to be getting their ground handling back in order.

Kingfisher Airlines pilots have also gone on a “sickout” strike. Over 100 pilots based out of Delhi have not reported to work, and Mumbai pilots reportedly are also calling in sick. The strike of Kingfisher pilots is because they have not been paid since January. Unlike the Air India strike, this is a good reason to be striking. Not paying employees for months is not acceptable.

This strike has a very real chance of bankrupting Kingfisher once and for all. In many ways, this will make no difference to the employees – they have already not been paid for months, and it’s unlikely that they will be paid in the near future. Kingfisher’s demise is pretty much guaranteed after FDI was put on hold. It’s just a matter of time, and the sooner the company goes bankrupt, the sooner Kingfisher staff can find a new job which actually pays a salary.

When I wished Kingfisher Airlines happy birthday yesterday, I expressed surprise that they are still flying today. In my mind, it’s nothing short of a miracle. The airline simply isn’t viable, with sky-high costs and yields being in the dumps (almost all tickets are being sold at less than 3/4 the rate of LCCs).