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AI: 100 Pilots Call In Sick, Flights Cancelled

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Air India has cancelled four international flights after about a hundred pilots called in "sick" late on Monday, in what is seen as a move to mount pressure on the state-run carrier on their demands to fly Boeing's Dreamliner.

The national carrier has about 500 pilots that operate international flights and they have been demanding exclusive rights to be trained on the Dreamliner, which is scheduled to join the fleet this month.

The pilots at Air India, which absorbed mostly domestic flights operator Indian Airlines in 2007, say pooling the staff to fly the new wide-bodied aircraft would affect their career prospects.

"We have cancelled 4 flights till now. We have flights scheduled for tonight and tomorrow early morning. Let us see what developments take place by then," Air India spokesman K. Swaminathan told Reuters.

Air India, which operates about 50 international flights a day, said three flights cancelled were from New Delhi to Toronto, Chicago and Hong Kong and one from Mumbai to New Jersey.

Aviation sector has been bleeding because of high fuel costs, low fares and debts of $20 billion.

Pilots at Kingfisher Airlines, the debt-laden carrier controlled by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, have threatened to strike from Wednesday if their salary dues were not paid.

Mallya said in a letter this week the carrier would start paying January salaries from Wednesday.