Court declares strike by Air India pilots illegal

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A state-run Air India aircraft sits on a tarmac at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi, India , Wednesday, May 9, 2012. A court on Wednesday declared a strike by some Air India pilots as illegal, triggered by unpaid salaries and a dispute on training on flying new generation B-787 Dreamliner aircraft. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Air India said Wednesday a court has ruled that a strike by some of its pilots is illegal and ordered them back to work.

The state-owned airline's spokesman, Prasad Rao, said management sought the New Delhi High Court's intervention after about 150 of its 1,500 pilots called in sick for a second day.

The pilots are protesting unpaid salaries and what they say are a lack of opportunities to train on Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets that the airline has ordered.

Air India canceled three flights Wednesday from New Delhi to Singapore, Frankfurt and New York, and one from Mumbai to New York.

Aviation Minister Ajit Singh offered to hold talks with the pilots. "Their grievances may be genuine but this is not the way to redress them," he told reporters.

Jitendra Awhad, president of the Indian Pilots Guild, the pilots' trade union, said they were seeking legal advice on whether to continue the strike or return to work, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

The state-owned carrier operates 50 international flights and 400 domestic flights each day. It fired 26 striking pilots on Wednesday after dismissing 10 a day earlier, an airline statement said.

Air India has been losing about a billion dollars a year as it struggles with the legacy of a poorly executed 2007 merger, debt costs and a swollen staff.

Awhad said Tuesday that some pilots had not been paid for six months.

Another of the pilots' demands stems from the 2007 merger of Air India and the state-run domestic carrier Indian Airlines.

Air India's management has decided that pilots from both carriers will undergo training on the new Boeing Dreamliner aircraft.

Air India pilots have objected to this, saying it would hinder their career prospects. The first of four long-haul Dreamliner aircraft are expected to be delivered to Air India by June.