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Page last updated at 05:31 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 06:31 UK

Air India pilots call off protest

Air India
The airline has posted a huge loss

Senior pilots of Air India, India's national carrier, have called off their four-day-old protest after a government assurance to look into their demands.

Leader of the pilots' union Captain VK Bhalla thanked the prime minister and aviation minister and apologised to passengers for inconvenience caused.

Earlier, the airline announced that it had cancelled at least 30 flights.

The pilots were protesting against the cancellation of performance-related bonuses by the cash-strapped airline.

Over the past four days, hundreds of passengers have been left stranded at airports across India because of the pilots' strike .

A significant number of flights were disrupted after pilots called in as part of the protest.

'Appeal'

"The strike is being called off in view of the assurances by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel that status quo will continue on issues," Capt Bhalla told a press conference in the Indian capital, Delhi.

"I appeal to the pilots to return to work immediately," he said.

Captain Bhalla thanked the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "for asking Mr Patel to intervene in our crisis".

He also apologised to passengers for inconvenience caused to them.

The protest was launched as pilots refused to accept the airline's decision to slash bonuses and incentives by up to 50%.

The management said they needed to cut costs since Air India was facing huge losses because of the worldwide recession.

The airline posted losses of more than $800m in 2008-09.

The struggling airline had to delay by a fortnight payment of June salaries and incentives to its 31,500 employees.

Airlines in India have been facing turbulence in recent times with the economic slowdown and rising operational costs.

Earlier this month, a protest by pilots of India's privately-owned Jet Airways caused considerable disruption.

During that protest hundreds of passengers were stranded at various airports, leading to angry confrontations.



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