The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Airport staff in protest cry

City-based exporter Anita Nankani was scheduled to take a Jet Airways flight to Mumbai on Thursday to meet a client who is flying in from Taiwan.

With the Airports Authority of India Employees’ Union deciding to go ahead with its agitation at the airport on August 17 and 18, she was forced to cancel the trip.

“There will be nobody to carry my luggage and with the trolleys not available, how can I catch a flight'” she asked. “Besides, with the security checks made more stringent, I will have to wait for hours. If there is no water or food available and the toilet cannot be used, it will be a horrible experience.”

Nankani voiced the fears of many. A spurt in ticket cancellations has greeted the strike plan.

“Reluctant to take a chance, many fliers have requested us to reschedule their tickets on other days,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east), Travel Agents Federation of India.

Jet Airways confirmed the trend. “We have changed the bookings of some passengers, but we will operate the flights,” an official asserted.

According to secretary of the employees’ union’s Calcutta branch Dipankar Ghosh: “As of now, the decision to stage the agitation stands. More than 2,000 employees of the airport will not work on those two days. Things will be brought to a standstill.”

The union, however, is in talks with the government and the heightened security situation might lead to a softening of stand on the part of the strike supporters.

“Although the employees who will be on strike do not directly oversee the security aspect, deficiency in services will naturally shift the focus from security to other issues,” observed a senior airport official.

The airport employees will hold sit-in demonstrations and take out rallies to protest the Airports Authority of India staff being pressured to join the new joint-venture companies that are in charge of the airports in Delhi and Mumbai.

With Air Traffic Control not taking part in the agitation, flight operations will technically be possible. Ground services, however, will definitely be affected. The airconditioners and conveyor belts will not be run and there will be no water supply.

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