Air India (AI, Delhi International) has laid off around 200 cabin crew who were recently admitted to the company on a contractual basis and has also denied a request by more than 50 pilots to extend their contracts, the news agency ANI reported on July 12 citing unnamed sources.

The flight attendants' contracts have been terminated, while the pilots are currently serving their notice period as the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent national and localised lockdowns continue to decimate the number of flights operating in the country.

On July 10, the agency reported that during a meeting, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association demanded that the Ministry of Civil Aviation clear its long-pending dues to staff immediately and allow pilots at Air India to resign with immediate effect.

"Firstly, we expressed our disapproval for trying to attack the frontline workers of Air India who worked during the peak of the pandemic. However, we expressed our willingness to support our [chairman and managing director] during these testing times in the interests of the airline, provided every employee of Air India shares the burden by taking a percentage cut on their gross [salaries]," the pilots' body said.

The pilots had also suggested compulsory leave without pay on a month-to-month basis on the condition that it is applied across the board for all employees in line with market conditions.

Meanwhile, the government has refused to provide equity financing for Air India, India's Economic Times reported on July 13. The Ministry of Civil Aviation declined the divestment-bound national carrier's request for funds, even though the measure has been repeatedly applied in previous years.

"Air India used to get some funds as equity support in the supplementary budget presented every year in September. Like earlier years, a request to fund losses, which are also being incurred due to Covid-19, was made, but the aviation ministry rejected the request," an official told the newspaper.

The aviation ministry usually forwards such requests to the finance ministry, but did not do so on this occasion.

The current deadline for bids in the latest attempt to privatise the airline is August 31, though the government may extend this further.