Air India has prohibited its cabin crew from taking leave during Haj season when the national carrier flies passengers for their pilgrimage to holy cities in Saudi Arabia.
A circular sent to employees on June 9 said that cabin crew should not apply for leave between August 4 and October 16. “Strict compliance please,” the circular said.
Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani declined to comment on the decision to ban leave. Sources in the airline, however, said the decision indicated that there was a shortage of cabin crew and that the airline plans to increase the number of Haj flights this year. While the schedule for this Haj season has not been released, the airline operated 230 flights carrying approximately 40,000 pilgrims in two phases last year.
Members of the cabin crew who were upset with the decision said that the management had taken an unrelenting stand on the issue when it was discussed a few days back. “Since last year the crew has been denied leave during Diwali, Christmas and now the Haj season. If there is such a serious manpower crunch why don’t they hire?” said a senior air hostess.
Last week, citing safety issues, the airline had barred employees from being deployed on the same flight with family members. Many Air India flight crew members have relatives working in other positions; many pilots are married to colleagues who could be posted for work in the same flight. Some have children and siblings working in the same airline. “There seems to be an effort to harass the crew by denying them family time,” said a flight purser.