Air India pilots end long strike after court order

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NEW DELHI (AP) — Hundreds of striking pilots of India's national carrier have ended a 58 day strike following a court order for them to return to work within two days.

Tauseef Mukadam, a spokesman for the Indian Pilots' Guild which represents Air India's striking pilots, said Wednesday that the group would follow the instructions of the Delhi High Court.

About a third of the airline's 1,500 pilots were on strike. Their absence led to dozens of canceled flights for the beleaguered state-owned carrier.

The court order Tuesday said the carrier should be sympathetic to the pilots' grievances.

Mukadam said that Judge Reva Khetrapal also asked Air India to work towards reinstating 100 pilots who had been fired during the strike.

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

It was not immediately clear when normal flight schedules would resume.

Mukadam said the striking pilots would first inform the court that they were ready to return to work and then complete the paperwork needed. The pilots haven't flown for two months so they must also undergo fresh medical examinations and refresher training classes.

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 workforce.

One of the pilots' key demands stems from the 2007 merger of Air India with the state-run domestic carrier Indian Airlines.

Air India's management 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 later this year.

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