Air India Express sacks 25 crew members over mass sick leave | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Air India Express sacks 25 crew members over mass sick leave

May 09, 2024 10:08 AM IST

The protest led to the cancellation of at least 86 Air India Express flights on Wednesday and 74 on Thursday besides curtailment of operations

Tata Group-owned Air India Express has sacked 25 of the crew members, who went on mass “sick leave” on Wednesday in protest against the management over the merger of the low-cost domestic service with AirAsia India, calling the abstention “pre-meditated and concerted” without “any justifiable reason”. The protest led to the cancellation of at least 86 flights on Wednesday and 74 on Thursday besides curtailment of operations.

In Delhi, 14 flights were cancelled until 4pm on Wednesday. (ANI)
In Delhi, 14 flights were cancelled until 4pm on Wednesday. (ANI)

People aware of the matter said the termination letters were issued late on Wednesday. A termination letter said, “It has been reported that you were rostered for a flight on 07.05.2024. However, you informed the Scheduling team at the last moment that you were unwell and accordingly reporting sick..”.

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It noted that at or around the same time, an overwhelming number of other cabin crew members also reported sick and did not report for their duties. “ This clearly points to a pre-meditated and concerted abstention from work without any justifiable reason...As a result of the above, a large number of flights had to be cancelled thereby disrupting the entire schedule, which caused tremendous inconvenience to the Company’s esteemed passengers,” said the letter, a copy of which HT has seen. “Your act is not only subversive of public interest, but has also caused embarrassment, severe reputational damage, and serious monetary loss to the Company.”

It said the act of reporting sick amounts to a concerted action with a common understanding to not operate the flight and to disrupt the services of the company, which is a violation of the rules and laws. The airline said that reporting sick and not being available for sick is a violation of the employment contract. “.. the Company has decided to terminate your employment with immediate effect on and from the date of this letter...”

In April, Vistara, a joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, too cancelled flights due to crew unavailability. It was later forced to scale down operations after pilots called in sick en masse.

A section of Air Indian Express cabin crew reported sick at the last minute, starting Tuesday night, resulting in flight delays and cancellations. An Air India Express spokesperson on Wednesday said the airline was engaging with the crew to understand the reasons behind these occurrences while addressing any inconvenience to guests.

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

Singh maintained the act was not representative of the 2,000-odd cabin crew colleagues in the company who continue to respond to the call of duty and serve guests with dedication and pride. He added the company leadership was available for discussions.

Air India Express operates over 2,500 flights weekly across 31 domestic and 14 international airports. It has 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 with the airline.

Air India Express offered refunds for the affected flights or complimentary rescheduling to another date.

All the 327 who reported sick are senior cabin crew. They reported being sick a few hours before their flights and then switched off their phones. HT reported the cabin crew have been protesting the alleged mismanagement of the airline during the merger process which is feared to cost jobs.There were major cancellations at all airports in southern India. In Delhi, 14 flights were cancelled until 4pm.

The government said it had sought a report from the airline and asked it to resolve issues promptly while advising facilities to passengers. The flight disruptions were likely to continue on Thursday as well. The airline was expected to scale down its departures for passenger convenience similar to what Vistara did.

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