NEARLY 40 passengers were stranded in Bahrain for several hours yesterday as a strike by pilots at Air India went into its sixth day.
The troubled Indian carrier was forced to cancel more than 20 international flights, including Air India Express flight IX556 to Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, which was scheduled to depart Bahrain International Airport at 2.10pm.
Passengers who showed up at the airport were told the airline had stopped flying due to disputes between pilots and the management, causing bookings to be suspended until May 15.
However, some were given full refunds while others were put on connecting flights to Calicut hours later.
"We had closed the booking because of the situation and there were a few passengers affected by the flight cancellation," said Air India's Bahrain and Jordan manager Meenakshi Mallik.
"This is the first flight in Bahrain that has been affected by the strike as there were some pilots flying on this route.
"But other than that everything was normal and full refund was given to the affected passengers," she said.
Air India Express is a low-cost airline which is a subsidiary of Air India and operates between Bahrain and Mumbai, Mangalore, New Delhi and destinations in Kerala.
The pilots have been demanding that their colleagues from former state-owned partner Indian Airlines should not be trained to fly Boeing 787 Dreamliners, as it may affect their career prospects.
They claim they are more experienced than former Indian Airlines pilots and should be preferred for the training programme. The two companies were merged in 2007, but there has been several problems with integration.
Airline management recently sacked 71 pilots, who reported sick to skip work, and sought the cancellation of the flying licences of 11 office-bearers of the Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG), which is spearheading the strike.
However, the strike continued with more than 400 pilots affiliated with IPG refusing to fly out of India since last Tuesday, which has disrupted international operations including to the GCC.
Reports had also circulated that the Indian government was looking at stopping Air India's international operations early next week, but there was no official confirmation.