74 Air India Express flights canceled due to layoffs due to mass sick leave

Apart from Air India Express flight cancellations, many flights were also delayed (file photo)

New Delhi:

Air India Express canceled at least 74 flights on Thursday due to layoff of some cabin crew, a day after nearly 300 employees of the airline called in sick and turned off their phones.

The canceled flights were on domestic and international routes and were scheduled to connect Chennai to Kolkata, Chennai to Singapore, Trichy to Singapore and Jaipur to Mumbai. Many flights were also delayed on key routes.

The shortage of cabin crew at the budget airline, a subsidiary of Air India now owned by the Tata group, has led to the cancellation of more than 100 flights since Tuesday and around 15,000 passengers are believed to have been affected.

Air India Express employees have been protesting against the new employment conditions, sources said.

The crew, according to sources, alleged a lack of equality in the treatment of staff and claimed that some staff members were offered lower positions despite securing interviews for management positions.

The crew also reported some changes to their pay package. These developments come as the airline is in the midst of a merger with AIX Connect, formerly AirAsia India.

Air India Express to reduce flights

As flight delays and cancellations have turned into a full-blown crisis, Air India Express CEO Aloke Singh said the number of flights operated would be reduced over the coming days.

“The disruptions have spread across the network, forcing us to reduce schedules over the coming days. We have had to do this to cope with the unavailability of crews and restore schedules,” Mr. Singh wrote to employees .

In his letter, he said more than 100 cabin crew had called in sick, seriously disrupting operations, and that the impact was “disproportionate” because the measures were taken by employees of high level.

“This act is certainly not representative of the airline’s nearly 2,000 cabin crew colleagues who continue to answer the call of duty and serve our guests with dedication and pride. I am grateful to all those who stand alongside the airline in this hour of crisis,” he added.

An Air India Express spokesperson said on Wednesday that the management was engaging with the crew to understand the reasons for the mass departure and added that it was working to minimize inconvenience to passengers.

Air India Express lays off 30 cabin crew members

Air India Express has laid off at least 30 cabin crew members after calling in sick at the last minute. The termination letter they were given stated that the mass furloughs “clearly indicate a premeditated and concerted abstention from work without any justifiable reason.”

“Your act is not only subversive to the public interest, but has also caused embarrassment, serious reputational damage and serious monetary losses to the company. Your act of reporting illness at work amounts to action concerted with a common understanding not to exploit the business,” the letter states.

According to sources, the management has given all Air India Express employees on mass leave 4 pm (Thursday) to return to work or face action.

Management is also expected to hold a public meeting with cabin crew members on Thursday evening.