86 Air India Express flights cancelled after cabin crew call in sick en masse | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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86 Air India Express flights cancelled after cabin crew call in sick en masse

By, New Delhi
May 09, 2024 01:13 AM IST

This is the second time in around a month that a Tata Group-owned Air India Express is facing flight disruptions due to crew unavailability.

As many as 90 Air India Express flights were cancelled on Wednesday after hundreds of crew members went on mass ‘sick leaves’ in protest against the Tata management over the merger of the low-cost domestic service with AirAsia India.

Passengers wait at the airport as several flights cancelled after a section of Air India Express cabin crew reported sick to protest against alleged mismanagement of its HR policies, in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. (ANI)
Passengers wait at the airport as several flights cancelled after a section of Air India Express cabin crew reported sick to protest against alleged mismanagement of its HR policies, in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. (ANI)

This is the second time in around a month that a Tata Group-owned airline is facing flight disruptions due to crew unavailability. In the first week of April, Vistara too had to cancel flights due to crew unavailability and had to eventually scale down operations after pilots called in sick en masse.

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“A section of our cabin crew reported sick at the last minute, starting last night, resulting in flight delays and cancellations. While we are engaging with the crew to understand the reasons behind these occurrences, our teams are actively addressing this issue to minimise any inconvenience to our guests,” an Air India Express spokesperson said.

In a letter to employees, Aloke Singh, CEO of Air India Express, said the strike was by about 100 staffers, which led a “disproportionate” impact on 90+ flights, “even though other colleagues reported for duty”.

“This act is certainly not representative of the 2,000-odd cabin crew colleagues in the company who continue to respond to the call of duty and serve our guests with dedication and pride. I am thankful to all who are standing by the airline in this hour of crisis,” Singh wrote, and added that “if there are concerns that need to be addressed, the company leadership is available for any discussions”.

Singh said curtailed schedules will be rolled out for the next few days.

Air India Express operates over 2,500 flights weekly across 31 domestic and 14 international airports, with a fleet of over 70 aircraft comprising Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s. The airline has 2,600 cabin crew out of which 327 reported sick on Wednesday, said an official at the airline, asking not to be named.

Offering refunds for the affected flights, the spokesperson said, “...Guests impacted by cancellations will be offered a full refund or complimentary rescheduling to another date. Guests flying with us today are requested to check if their flight is affected, before heading to the airport.”

“All these 327 are senior cabin crew who reported sick a few hours before their flights and then switched off their phones so that they could not be contacted. The situation almost remains the same even now,” this person added.

The salt-to-steel conglomerate now runs Air India, its lower-cost sister Air India Express, Vistara and AirAsia India.

“Tensions were brimming for a week now and the situation worsened last night. The cabin crew are protesting the alleged mismanagement of the airline during the merger process which is feared to cost jobs of a significant number of staff,” this person added.

A second person with the airline said there are major cancellations at all airports in southern India.

In Delhi, 14 flights were cancelled till 4pm.

The government said it had sought a report from the airline. “MoCA has called for a report from Air India Express regarding cancellation of flights and asked them to resolve issues promptly. They have also been advised to ensure facilities to passengers as per DGCA norms,” a ministry official said.

The flight disruptions are likely to continue on Thursday as well. The airline, officials close to the development said, is expected to scale down its departures for passenger convenience, similar to what Vistara had done.

A third airline official said employees of Air India Express are particularly upset with “all positions having gone to the AirAsia India employees and the HR too being controlled by the erstwhile HR of AirAsia India”.

“The staff of Air India Express have been overlooked in all kinds of internal jobs; promotions etc. There is huge dissatisfaction and discrimination and they have and they wrote to the HR, CEO, COO, chairman of Tata Sons N Chandrasekaran and also to the ministry,” this person added.

The Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) in its letter to Chandrasekaran on April 26, highlighted several issues and sought an appointment. The letter, seen by HT, said that the several employees with impeccable records were terminated, contrary to the condition set by the government that no sackings will be done for two years after Air India and Air India Express were taken over by the Tata Group.

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