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Air India Express cancels over 90 flights, leaves passengers stranded

Air India Express

Air India Express Picture | ANI

KOCHI: Uncertainty over flight schedules Air India Express is likely to continue as senior cabin crew members are set to continue their protests against management, alleging “pay cuts, mismanagement and lack of respect”. The standoff led to the cancellation of more than 90 flights across the country on Wednesday after more than 300 cabin crew took “sick leave” starting Tuesday evening.

The cancellation of services resulted in hundreds of passengers being stranded at airports.

According to union leaders, the protest is expected to continue until management agrees to discuss the issue with cabin crew. “Until Wednesday evening, there has been no action from management to discuss the issue. The cabin crew of Air India Express will therefore continue the protest. More flights are likely to be canceled in the coming days if the issue is not resolved,” said KK Vijaykumar of the Air India Express Employees Union (BMS).

The last-minute cancellations prompted passengers to protest at airports, particularly those traveling to the Gulf region for business. Indicating disruption in the coming days, an AI-Express spokesperson said: “We ask customers who have booked a flight with us to check whether their flight is affected by the disruption before traveling to the airport. »

In a late night incident, management fired some of the crew members who showed up due to illness, citing a violation of contract terms.

Crew on “sick leave”

More than 300 senior cabin crew have taken “sick leave” to protest alleged pay cuts and poor management.

Management trying to resolve issue: Air India Express spokesperson

According to our sources, a reduced schedule will be put in place in the coming days due to the unavailability of the crew. “Around 300 cabin crew members were put on sick leave in protest against management. Most flights in the Gulf region and domestic sector have been cancelled,” a source said.

As many as 12 flights from Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode and 10 from Kochi were canceled, affecting travel to Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat, Bahrain, Dammam and domestic sectors on Wednesday. Due to the cancellations, many people missed their connections from other airports and had to book tickets on other flights by paying double the price.

Several passengers took to social media to express their anger against Air India Express. Anoop Govind, a finance professional, complained on social media that his parents would miss the international connecting flight from Bengaluru as the flight from Thiruvananthapuram was cancelled. Passengers on the Thiruvananthapuram to Sharjah flight learned about the cancellation only after waiting for boarding at the security gate. They expressed anguish over the sudden change in plans and lack of response from Air India Express management to arrange alternative flights. Meanwhile, Air India Express spokesperson said passengers will be given a full refund or free rescheduling to another date within seven days.

The spokesperson said management was trying to resolve the problem because “a small portion of its cabin crew called in sick at the last minute.” “We are talking with the crew to understand the reasons for these events. Our teams are actively addressing this issue in order to minimize the inconvenience caused to our customers. Customers affected by cancellations will be offered a full refund or free rescheduling to another date. Passengers traveling with us today (Wednesday) are asked to check whether their flight is affected before traveling to the airport,” the spokesperson said. Explaining the issue, Vijaykumar said discontent was brewing among Air India Express cabin crew after Tata took over the airline in January 2022.

“After the acquisition, the management reduced the contract duration of many cabin crew members from five years to one year and reduced their salaries by 25-30 per cent,” Vijaykumar said. As part of cost reduction, management has introduced a shared room for cabin crew who work on different shifts. “In accordance with labor law, workers need uninterrupted rest when working in the aviation sector. However, placing two workers from different shifts in the same room caused problems. The cabin crew had asked management to avoid this and insisted on offering them decent simple 3 star accommodation instead of 5 star if their aim was to keep costs down. However, these requests fell on deaf ears,” he said. “A few months ago, the cabin crew had reported the matter to Tata Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekharan. Further, the Joint Labor Commissioner of India has informed the management that the demands of the employees are genuine and the matter should be resolved in their favor, no response has come so far,” Vijaykumar said .

“Check flight status”

According to Air India Express, “Customers can visit the Flight Status section on our website for real-time information. If their flight is canceled or delayed beyond 3 hours, they can opt for a full refund or reschedule to a later date without any charges on Tia (chatbot) on WhatsApp (+91 6360012345) or on airindiaexpress.com.

AI Express flight cancellations: Satheesan writes to Scindia

T’Puram: Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan has written to Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M Scindia over the imbroglio created by Air India Express employees who went on strike touching several thousand passengers. In the letter, Satheesan urged Scindia to act quickly to resolve the bottleneck caused by Air India Express’ unwarranted cancellation of many international and domestic services from Kerala. Terming the lighting protest “appalling”, Satheesan recalled that hundreds of passengers were stranded at various airports in Kerala following Air India’s decision.

(With contributions from T’Puram)