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Woes of senior cabin crew hits AI Express; airline says leadership ready for discussions

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NewsDrum Desk
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New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) Last month, a senior female cabin crew member of Air India Express landed at the Bangalore airport late in the night. After completing the duty formalities and stepping out of the airport, she and three female colleagues came to know that their hotel bookings by the airline were not confirmed.

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Though the bookings were done after much efforts and numerous calls, the experience has rattled her and she is now contemplating quitting the airline, where she has been working for more than eight years.

On the condition of anonymity, she said that particular day was very bad and there was no proper support for the cabin crew.

There is a lot of stress and apart from requiring to share rooms during layovers, sometimes the assigned hotel rooms do not have adequate facilities, the cabin crew member told PTI.

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Room sharing, lack of proper support, revised salary structure and alleged differential treatment of experienced crew members and mismanagement are among the issues being flagged by a section of the senior cabin crew members.

On Wednesday, the airline told the staff that the leadership is available for any discussions to address the concerns.

Another cabin crew claimed the airline's management was not ready to look into their issues and that those who have been with Air India Express for many years are being meted out different treatment compared to those from AIX Connect.

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Air India Express is in the process of merging AIX Connect, formerly Air India Express, with itself. Both airlines are owned by the Tata Group.

Since Tuesday, around 200 cabin crew members have reported sick to protest against the alleged mismanagement at the airline, resulting in cancellation of more than 100 flights and delay of many flights. Around 15,000 passengers have been impacted by the cancellations and there was chaos at many airports. sources said on Wednesday.

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

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"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.

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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.

In a message to the airline's staff, Air India Express CEO Aloke Singh on Wednesday said since last evening, more than 100 cabin crew members have reported sick prior to their rostered flight duty, "at the last minute, severely disrupting our operations".

More than 90 flights have been disrupted due to the situation, he added.

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"The disruptions have cascaded across the network, forcing us to curtail the schedules over the next few days. We had to do this to cope with the non-availability of crew and to recover schedules," Singh said.

For now, the curtailment of flights will be till May 13, one of the sources said.

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

"All comms channels remain open -- departmental townhalls (one pre-scheduled for tomorrow), monthly all-hands townhall besides formal and informal reach out to leaders," he said.

According to him, senior cabin crew colleagues who have seen the airline evolve from a small, niche operator to what we are today -- "a rapidly growing 350+ flights-a-day carrier, with a strong network footprint across India, Gulf and SE Asia -- have a deeper stake in helping build and achieve the vision we have set for ourselves". PTI RAM MR

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