When Air India decided to send its employees on leave without pay, in October 2008, it could not have foreseen the problems that would result from that decision.
During the October 2008 crisis, the national carrier had offered to send as many as 15,000 workers on leave without pay for a period of three to five years.
However, it was voluntary on the employees’ part, many of whom applied for it and got the nod from the airline six months ago.
But now that the airline has shifted to Terminal 3 and is facing a staff crunch, the decision taken two years ago has returned to haunt it.
“Air India had offered leave without pay for three to five years in Oct 2008. Those who took up the offer to go on leave will be taken back, at the same seniority and last drawn pay,” said an Air India official who did not wish to be named.
“Now that the requirement has suddenly increased, Air India (AI) is missing those employees. As a result, the airline is on a hiring spree,” the official added.
The carrier has nearly 500 cabin crew staff at the Delhi airport, of which 50 took up this offer and went on leave.
The problem began on October 31, when AI decided to shift the arrival of 11 of its domestic flights to the newly-built Terminal 3.
The limited airline staff had to manage five terminals: domestic arrival and departure at Terminal 1, international arrival and departure at T3 and domestic arrival at T3.
The staff was staggered, leading to shortage. Unmindful of the staff shortage problem, the national carrier also went ahead and started 15 non-stop flights for international destinations from eight cities.
While earlier it used to operate 486 flights in a week from Delhi, the number has gone up to 770 flights.
“The gap between manpower and number of flights has widened. As a result, the passenger is suffering. The airline is now hiring experienced cabin crew, so that they can be directly put on duty,” the official added.
“Being a national carrier, Air India, instead of sacking employees, offered them the option of going on leave, during the worldwide recession,” he added.