Explained: Why Air India Express Plans To Cut Down On More Flights As Cabin Crew Issues Cripple Airline

Tata-owned Air India Express is likely to cut back on even more flights over the next few days as an ongoing issue cabin crew hamstrings the carrier’s operations.

What Happened: Air India Express CEO Aloke Singh on Wednesday said the airline will be reducing flights over the next few days due to a significant number of cabin crew reporting sick just before their scheduled duties.

This disruption has already led to the cancellation of over 90 flights, affecting operations across the network, Singh said in a statement, adding that this behaviour is not reflective of the majority of the airline's cabin crew, who continue to serve with dedication.

"Since last evening, over a 100 of our cabin crew colleagues have reported sick prior to their rostered flight duty, at the last minute, severely disrupting our operations. Because this action was mostly by colleagues assigned L1 role, the impact was disproportionate, disrupting 90+ flights even though other colleagues reported for duty," the CEO said in a statement.

Singh also said that if there are concerns that need to be addressed, the company leadership is available for any discussions.

Trouble In The Skies: Earlier today, the carrier apologised for the convenience after over 90 of its flights—mostly international—were either canceled or delayed due to senior crew members calling in sick.

In a major flight disruption, more than 70 international and domestic flights of Air India Express were canceled or delayed due to senior crew members calling in sick. The situation has raised concerns within the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which is closely monitoring the developments.

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The Ministry of Civil Aviation has called for a detailed report from Air India Express regarding the recent cancellation of flights and has urged the airline to promptly resolve the issues. This incident comes shortly after Vistara encountered similar issues in April, when hundreds of flights were affected due to pilots calling in sick.

It’s Happened Before: Tata Group’s other carrier Vistara has previously seen similar cancellations due to crew going on sick leave, leading to over 150 flight cancellations. The issues appear to have ongoing since the start of the merger process with AIX Connect, formerly known as AirAsia India.

In April, the Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) talked about different problems they were facing. They said that their allowances, like housing allowance, were taken away, which made their salaries much lower even though the airline was making money.

They also said that the company wasn’t treating all employees fairly, with some saying they were giving jobs to people from outside the company instead of to qualified people who already worked there.

Underlying Issues: The main issue for Vistara pilots had been about how pilots get paid. A new payment structure for pilot’s salaries was announced in February. It means they only get paid for 40 hours of flying each month instead of the 70 hours they used to get paid for. Many pilots who are not captains worry this will make them earn much less money.

When pilots voiced their concerns, the Vistara management said they had to agree to the new pay rules or forgo a one-time merger-related payment and may no longer be allowed to work following the merger of Air India and Vistara. This led to more pilots calling in sick.

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Posted In: GovernmentNewsRegulationsManagementAir IndiaTata GroupVistara