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AI Express cancels 85 flights; issues termination letters to 25 cabin crew on strike

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MUMBAI/ NEW DELHI, May 9: Air India Express on Thursday cancelled 85 flights or 23 per cent of the total daily capacity as the cabin crew shortage continued for the third day while the Tata Group-owned airline issued termination letters to around 25 cabin crew who are on strike.

Since Tuesday night when a section of cabin crew started reporting sick to protest against alleged mismanagement, the airline has cancelled more than 170 flights, including those to Gulf nations.

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In efforts to minimise disruptions, Air India Express has also decided to curtail flights till May 13 and Air India will operate services on 20 routes of the airline.

An airline source said that around 250 cabin crew reported sick on Thursday.

Without directly mentioning about the termination letters, the airline on Thursday said it is taking appropriate steps against certain individuals as their actions have caused grave inconvenience to thousands of passengers.

Discontent has been brewing among a section of staff at Air India Express after the start of the process to merge AIX Connect, formerly AirAsia India, with itself.

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A section of the cabin crew has alleged mismanagement and lack of equality in the treatment of staff. A conciliation process is happening under the Industrial Disputes Act after a union representing a section of the Air India Express cabin crew had filed a complaint before the labour department last year.

Room sharing, lack of proper support, revised salary structure and alleged differential treatment of experienced crew members of Air India Express are among the issues being flagged by the striking cabin crew.

“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. However, 85 of our flights stand cancelled,” the airline said in a revised statement on Thursday.

The cancellations account for around 23 per cent of the Tata Group-owned airline’s scheduled daily flights of about 368.  In the earlier statement, the airline said it has cancelled 74 flights and will be operating 292 services.

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The carrier has asked passengers to check if their flight is affected by the disruption before heading to the airport. If the flight is cancelled, or delayed beyond three hours, they may opt for a full refund or reschedule to a later date without any fees, it added.

Earlier in the day, sources said the airline has issued termination notices to 25 cabin crew members who had reported sick and asked others to join back for duty by 4 pm on Thursday.

Against this backdrop, Air India Express said it is taking appropriate steps against certain individuals.

“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,” it added.

On Thursday, a cabin crew member who is on strike told PTI that there are multiple issues, including not getting enough leaves and differential treatment of people who have been with Air India Express for a long time.

The member also alleged that the airline sent out termination letters to some people without even being ready to discuss the issues.

Meanwhile, a meeting convened by the labour department as part of the conciliation process is happening between the airline management and Express Employees Union (AIXEU) in the national capital.

Regarding the ultimatum asking striking cabin crew to join back duty by 4 pm, an airline source said the future course of action will be decided depending on the outcome of the meeting under the aegis of the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC).

On Wednesday, the civil aviation ministry sought a report from Air India Express on the cancellation of flights and also asked the airline to resolve the issues promptly. (PTI)








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