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AI Express cancels over 90 flights on cabin crew woes; thousands of passengers stranded at airports

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NEW DELHI/ KOCHI, May 8: Air India Express has cancelled more than 90 flights since Tuesday night with a section of senior cabin crew reporting sick to protest against alleged mismanagement at the Tata Group-owned airline, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at various airports in the country.

Scores of flights have also been delayed and the airline’s passengers, mostly scheduled to travel to the Gulf nations, protested at airports in Kerala against flight cancellations as many of them were informed only after the security checks.

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The civil aviation ministry on Wednesday sought a report from Air India Express on the flight cancellations and also asked the airline to resolve the issues promptly.

On Wednesday, sources told PTI that more than 200 cabin crew are believed to have reported sick to protest against the alleged mismanagement at the airline.

The cabin crew shortage has resulted in the cancellation of more than 90 flights since Tuesday night and scores of flights were delayed.

Flight disruptions are happening at various airports, including Kochi, Calicut, Delhi and Bengaluru. Domestic as well as international services, including to various Gulf countries, have also been hit, they added.

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An Air India Express spokesperson said the airline is engaging with the cabin crew members to understand the reasons for reporting sick and also apologised for the flight disruptions.

Discontent has been brewing among a section of the cabin crew at the low-cost carrier for some time now, especially after the start of the process to merge AIX Connect, formerly AirAsia India, with itself.

The latest development at Air India Express comes a month after Tata Group full-service carrier Vistara witnessed pilot woes, forcing it to temporarily cut down capacity by 10 per cent, or 25-30 flights daily.

As part of consolidating its airline business, Tata Group is merging Air India Express and AIX Connect, as well as Vistara with Air India.

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The sources also said there was chaos at some airports due to the sudden cancellation of flights, including to overseas destinations.

The airline is to operate 360 daily flights during the summer schedule that started in the last week of March.

“A section of our cabin crew has reported sick at the last minute, starting last night, resulting in flight delays and cancellations.

“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,” the Air India Express spokesperson said in a statement.

Apologising to the customers for the “unexpected disruption”, the spokesperson said those impacted by the cancellations will be offered a full refund or complimentary rescheduling to another date.

Late last month, a union representing a section of the Air India Express cabin crew alleged that the airline is being mismanaged and there is a lack of equality in the treatment of the staff.

Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU), a registered union, which claims to represent around 300 cabin crew members, mostly seniors, had also alleged that mismanagement of the affairs has affected the morale of the employees.

On Wednesday, a woman passenger, who was to travel from Kannur to Sharjah with twin babies and her husband on an Air India Express flight, said she has to rejoin work on May 9, but the airline was offering her a flight from Kochi only on May 10.

“What would be the point in me travelling on May 10? If I do not reach there before May 9, my boss will say not to come and I will lose my job,” she told the media.

“Guests flying with us today are requested to check if their flight is affected, before heading to the airport,” the airline spokesperson said.

A civil aviation ministry official on Wednesday said the ministry has called for a report from Air India Express regarding cancellation of flights and asked them to resolve issues promptly.

The airline has also been advised to ensure facilities to passengers as per DGCA norms, the official said.

Meanwhile, the Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly V D Satheesan wrote to Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia highlighting the plight of the passengers and seeking his urgent intervention to ensure alternative travel arrangements for the affected people.

“Many people heading to the Middle East face the risk of losing their employment since they will be unable to return on time,” Satheesan said.

CPI state secretary Binoy Viswam too sought urgent intervention of the ministry to solve the travel problems of passengers.

In a statement, he said thousands of passengers were stranded at various airports across the country after more than 70 services of the Air India Express were cancelled. (PTI)







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