DHAKA: Air India is set to receive its first Boeing 787 this week as a pilots` dispute over who should fly the aircraft triggers cuts in international services and more than 100 dismissals.
Air India is taking delivery of one 787 aircraft and flying it to the country this week, according to a civil-aviation ministry official who declined to be identified. The carrier will start using the jet with services to Melbourne, Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said Friday.
"The induction of the 787 should have been a major and positive milestone," said Binit Somaia, a Sydney-based director of CAPA Centre for Aviation, an industry consultant.
"Instead, there is a possibility that the new plane may be temporarily grounded due to human-resources issues."
Travelers have suffered three weeks of disruptions because of protests rooted in a merger five years ago that has left the state-owned airline with duplicate resources and warring unions.
It has also caused losses, with the government this year agreeing to $5.4 billion of bailouts through 2020.
Dinesh Keskar, senior vice president of sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in India and Asia Pacific, didn`t immediately reply to calls and an email seeking comment. G. Prasada Rao, an Air India spokesman, also didn`t respond to calls.
The introduction of the 787 has sparked protests as Air India has given training on the new aircraft to pilots who previously worked at Indian Airlines, the state-owned domestic operator that combined with Air India in 2007.
Pilots who worked at Air India before the merger say that they should be the only ones to fly the aircraft as the planes were ordered before the merger.
All the 43 Airbus planes bought by Indian Airlines are operated by pilots from that company even after the merger, according to the Indian Pilots` Guild, which represents about a third of Air India`s 1,500 current pilots.
An Air India pilot will have to work at least 14 years before earning promotion as a commander if pilots from Indian Airlines are also allowed to fly the new jets, said Amit Jain, a member of the Guild.
BDST: 1509 HRS, MAY 29, 2012
Abul Kalam Azad, Newsroom Editor
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