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Business News/ Companies / News/  Air India Express fires 25 cabin crew members for not reporting to work; cancels 85 flights today
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Air India Express fires 25 cabin crew members for not reporting to work; cancels 85 flights today

As per multiple reports, AI Express has told striking employees to join work by 4 pm on May 9. Meanwhile, the airline has cancelled 85 flights today amid network disruptions. A town hall meeting to address grievances is also scheduled for today.

AI Express has reportedly terminated 25 cabin crew and has issued ultimatum to striking cabin crew to join work by 4 pm on Thursday. (PTI Photo / Kamal Kishore)Premium
AI Express has reportedly terminated 25 cabin crew and has issued ultimatum to striking cabin crew to join work by 4 pm on Thursday. (PTI Photo / Kamal Kishore)

Air India Express has sacked around 25 employees after they did not report to work on Wednesday, May 8. The abrupt mass sick leave at the last minute resulted in severe disruption to AI Express' network, with more than 90 flights being cancelled. 

“Your act of reporting sick for work amounts to concerted action with a common understanding to not operate the flight and to disrupt the services of the company. This is not only in violation of the applicable laws but also violates the Air India Express Limited Employees’ service rules as are applicable to you," the company wrote in the termination letter dated May 8.

“You informed the scheduling team at the last moment that you were unwell and, accordingly, reporting sick. It is noted that at or around the same time, an overwhelming number of other cabin crew members have also reported sick and have not reported for their duties. This clearly points to a pre-meditated and concerted abstention from work without any justifiable reason," the letter added.

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PTI further reported that AI Express has also issued an ultimatum to striking cabin crew to join work by 4 pm on Thursday (May 9). NDTV reported that the number of job terminations is likely to increase.

When contacted, AI Express representatives said they had no statement. This story will be updated once an official response is given.

Air India Express cancels 85 flights today amid network disruption

Air India Express has cancelled 85 flights amid network disruption on Thursday, May 9, and the combined entity of Air India Express and AIX Connect (formerly AirAsia India) will operate 283 flights today.

Before the network disruption, the two airlines cumulatively operated around 380 flights, including 260 domestic and 120 international.

“Air India Express is making every possible effort to minimise the inconvenience caused to our guests by this unexpected situation. We will be operating 283 flights today. We have mobilised all resources, and Air India will support us by operating on 20 of our routes," the airline's spokesperson said.

The airline has requested travellers to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

If their flight is cancelled or delayed beyond three hours, they may opt for a full refund or reschedule to a later date without any fees on Tia on WhatsApp (+91 6360012345) or on airindiaexpress.com, the airline added.

“While we will continue to engage with our cabin crew colleagues with a commitment to address any concern, we are taking appropriate steps against certain individuals as their actions have caused grave inconvenience to thousands of our guests," the spokesperson added.

What Has Happened?

On May 8, Air India Express announced a 20 percent reduction in its flight network over the next few days to stabilise operations after a section of the cabin crew went on mass sick leave, causing significant disruptions.

The mass leave is believed to result from grievances related to the ongoing merger with AIX Connect, formerly AirAsia India.

“If there are concerns that need to be addressed, the company leadership is available for any discussions. All communication channels remain open - departmental townhalls, monthly all-hands townhall, besides formal and informal reach out to leaders," said Air India Express chief executive Aloke Singh in a note to employees.

A townhall is scheduled today. “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 told Mint.

The civil aviation ministry has sought a report. The ministry has asked the aviation firm to resolve issues promptly and ensure the facilities for passengers as per DGCA norms.

Merger Issues Cause Disruptions

The company witnessed severe disruption to its network as more than 90 flights were cancelled due to over 100 cabin crew of the airline going on mass sick leave since the evening of May 7, resulting in delays and cancellations. 

The company, which employs around 2,000 cabin crew members, has asked the staff to reach out to the airline to discuss their grievances related to the merger.

“There are concerns among senior cabin crew members about their roles and positions in the company as it is merging with AIX Connect. There are changes that are taking place to bring a more corporate culture at Air India Express, in line with that of AIX Connect, and the transition has also made Air India Express a domestic and international airline, not just international, as was the case earlier. These are some of the issues," one of the officials who was aware of the development told Mint.

AI Express was acquired by the Tata Group, along with Air India, in a government-led strategic divestment programme in January 2022. The airline is in the middle of integrating with AIX Connect. 

Simultaneously, there is also a transformation taking place within the Air India group, which will bring a more domestic focus for AI Express and a more international approach for the merged entity of Air India and Vistara.

Merger issues are not new for Tata Group-backed airlines. Last month, Vistara had to cancel several flights due to a shortage of pilots.

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Published: 09 May 2024, 09:16 AM IST
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