Air India Express cabin crew strike: A spillover of long brewing discontent?

Representational image. File photo: Manorama

The flash strike that led to cancellation of many Air India Express flights on Wednesday is seen as an implosion of long simmering resentment among a section of the cabin crew. Sources said that grievances regarding mismanagement, remuneration and termination were raised earlier but did not elicit any response from the top management.

“We have a five year contract renewal process. Employees with long years of services are often kicked out citing unjust reasons. In case of passenger complaint, we face termination or else contract will be renewed for just a year. There is a sense of job insecurity and uncertainty about our future,'' a staff said who did not want to be named.

On April 26, Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) sent a letter to Natarajan Chandrasekharan, Chairman, Air India limited enlisting a set of grievances concerning alleged mismanagement at Air India Express limited. The letter says that there was growing 'unrest and dissatisfaction' among the employees since the takeover by TATA. The letter pointed out that essential allowances such as HRA, TA, DA which were part of the employees' compensation prior to the merger have been entirely taken off resulting in significant salary cuts.
''If you look at the history of Air India, such kind of protest is unheard of. We haven't done anything that affects the passengers and the repute of the organisation till now. We have been forced to take this extreme step because of our mental stress,'' a staff said.

Air India Express has cancelled more than 80 flights and scores of flights have been delayed as a section of cabin crew members have reported sick to protest against the alleged mismanagement at the Tata Group-owned airline. The airline, which is in the process of merging AIX Connect (formerly AirAsia India) with itself, is to operate 360 daily flights during the summer schedule that started in the last week of March.

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.

"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.
We sincerely apologise to our guests for this unexpected disruption and emphasise that this situation does not reflect the standard of service we strive to provide. Guests impacted by cancellations will be offered a full refund or complimentary rescheduling to another date.
Guests flying with us today are requested to check if their flight is affected, before heading to the airport,” the Air India Express Spokesperson said.

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