AI Express cabin crew call off strike; 25 sacked members to be reinstated

Air India Express still had to cancel 85 flights today due to the crew shortage; Air India will fly 20 of its routes to support inconvenienced passengers

Representative image of Air India and Vistara aircraft at an airport (photo: PTI)
Representative image of Air India and Vistara aircraft at an airport (photo: PTI)


Air India Express cabin crew on Thursday, 9 May, decided to withdraw their strike, while the airline agreed to reinstate 25 staff who were terminated from service, according to sources.

A section of the cabin crew started reporting sick from the night of Tuesday, 7 May, to protest against alleged mismanagement at the airline, forcing cancellation of more than 170 flights and impacting thousands of passengers at various airports.

The decisions to end the strike and withdraw the termination letters were made at a conciliation meeting between the representatives of the cabin crew and the airline management at the office of the chief labour commissioner (central) in Delhi.

The meeting, which went on for nearly five hours, included representatives of the Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) and the airline management. The union is affiliated to the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), an associate of the RSS.

After the meeting, Girish Chandra Arya, all-India secretary of the BMS, said the termination of the 25 cabin crew sacked this morning has been withdrawn.

Both parties will further discuss the issues that led to this escalation, it was agreed, and the next meeting will be on 28 May, he said.

After a detailed discussion and in response to persuasion and appeals from the conciliation officer and the chief labour commissioner, the union representatives agreed that all the cabin crew members who have reported sick will report for duty with fitness certificates immediately. A document has been signed to this effect by the representatives of the union and the airline:

'On appeal of the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), the management agreed to reinstate 25 cabin crew who have been terminated on May 7 and 8, 2024 for reporting sick as a concerted action immediately.

The management will review the cases of these crew as per service regulations.'

As per the document, the representatives of the airline have given an assurance that all the issues raised by the cabin crew shall be placed before the management, looked into and resolved during the conciliation proceedings.

Earlier in the day, the Tata Group-run national airline said it had cancelled 85 flights, or about 23 per cent of its total operational capacity, due to the cabin crew shortage and would only be operating 283 flights.

To minimise the disruptions, Air India (the flagship airline) is operating additional flights on 20 of the Air India Express routes, which has curtailed services till 13 May.

Sources said earlier that around 250 cabin crew members in all had reported sick today, 9 May.

On Wednesday, 8 May, 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.

Discontent has been brewing among a section of the staff at Air India Express ever since the commencement of its merger with AIX Connect, formerly AirAsia India. A section of the cabin crew alleged mismanagement and lack of equality in the treatment of staff.

A conciliation process is ongoing under the Industrial Disputes Act, as a union representing a section of the Air India Express cabin crew filed a complaint before the labour department last year.

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

In a message to the airline's staff, Air India Express CEO Aloke Singh on Wednesday, 8 May, said that since the previous evening (7 May), more than 100 cabin crew members had reported sick prior to their rostered flight duty, 'at the last minute, severely disrupting our operations'.

'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.

He also said the company leadership was available for any discussions if there were concerns that needed to be addressed.

The Air India Express cabin crew strike comes a month after the Tata Group's full-service carrier Vistara witnessed pilot staffing woes, forcing it to temporarily cut down its capacity by 10 per cent, or 25–30 flights daily.

With a view to consolidation of its airline business, the Tata Group is currently in the process of merging Air India Express and AIX Connect, as well as Vistara, with Air India.

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