Air India Express strike: More flights from Kerala cancelled today as stalemate continues

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Kochi: Over 100 Air India Express flights were cancelled since Tuesday night due to a significant portion of cabin crew calling in sick in protest of purported mismanagement within the Tata Group-owned airline. This action has affected approximately 15,000 passengers.

More flights from Kerala were cancelled by the Air India Express on Thursday without prior warning. Two services from Thiruvananthapuram airport and the flights from Kannur to Sharjah and Abu Dhabi were cancelled. All flights scheduled to Kerala from UAE were called off till Monday. The passengers have not been informed about the refund or alternative arrangements yet.

To address the shortage of cabin crew, the airline has opted to reduce flights until May 13. Sources indicate that Air India Express typically operates approximately 360 flights daily to both domestic and international locations. 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.

Apart from cancellations, scores of flights were 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. More than 200 cabin crew have reported sick, the sources said.

Flight disruptions happened at various airports, including Kochi, Calicut, Delhi and Bengaluru. Domestic as well as international services, including to various Gulf countries, have also been hit. At Delhi airport alone, 14 flights of the carrier were cancelled from 4 am to 4 pm on Wednesday, they added. To tackle the situation, one of the sources said Air India Express will be tapping the synergies with other Tata Group airlines -- Air India and Vistara.

Discontent brews
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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

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.

"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.

In its second statement of the day, the airline said that a "small section of the cabin crew" reported sick at the last minute, disrupting operations since last night.

"We have mobilised all our resources and revised our flight schedule. We are also accommodating affected guests on alternative flights, including those of Group airlines...," the spokesperson said and asked passengers to check if their flight is affected by the disruption before heading to the airport.

In a post on X, the civil aviation ministry said it has called for a report from Air India Express regarding cancellation of flights, and asked it to resolve issues promptly.

The airline has also been advised to ensure proper facilities to passengers while airport operators have been requested to provide proactive assistance to affected passengers.

Last month, the 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.


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