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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Air India Express hit by disruptions as section of cabin crew mount protest

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Barely a month after Vistara was hit by massive disruptions after unhappy pilots called in sick, operations of another Tata group airline — Air India Express — have been hit as a section of the cabin crew reported sick evidently to protest against the changes in the carrier’s human resources (HR) policies.

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Air India Express and AIX Connect (formerly AirAsia India) are in the process of being merged and the airline has also stepped up hiring of cabin crew to support its expansion.

Around 80 Air India Express flights have been disrupted, including cancellations and long delays, due to the crew shortage since Tuesday (May 7) night as over 200 cabin crew called in sick, according to sources in the know. The airline operates over 350 daily flights and has flexibility to go up to around 400 daily flights as per summer schedule for this year.

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“A section of our cabin crew has 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 caused to our guests as a result,” an Air India Express spokesperson said.

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The disruptions led to a number of passengers taking to social media to complain about cancellations and long delays.

“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,” the airline’s spokesperson added.

In April, the Air India Express Employees Union, which says it has 300 senior cabin crew as members, wrote to Tata group and Air India Chairman N Chandrasekaran, alleging that the airline was being mismanaged and there was a “lack of equality in treatment” of employees.

The union had complained that the Air India Express management was disregarding experience and merit, and external candidates were being preferred over the airline’s own eligible and qualified candidates. It also complained that take-home pay for cabin crew has gone down due to merger as some of the earlier allowances have been removed.

Sources in the airline indicated that with the Air India Express-AIX Connect merger, the airline is moving towards a merit-based appreciation system instead of a progression system based on seniority, and this appears to have fanned the fire of disgruntlement among a section of the cabin crew, particularly the senior members. Additional hiring of fresh cabin crew is also learnt to have led to concerns among existing crew members about career progression.

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