Mass leave: Air India Express terminates 30 employees as crisis forces cancellation of over 70 flights

Indian aviation company Air India Express has terminated the employment of at least 30 cabin crew, just a day after the company was hit by a mass sick leave. On Wednesday, 300 Air India Express employees switched off their mobile phones after calling in sick, leading to massive flight disruptions.

An Air India Express aeroplane. Photo courtesy: Air India Express/Instagram
An Air India Express aeroplane. Photo courtesy: Air India Express/Instagram

As per reports, more terminations could take place in the next few days. The aviation company has also given an ultimatum to its employees to report to work by 4 pm or be prepared to face action.

On Thursday, the situation led to the cancellation of over 70 flights.

Air India offers help

Meanwhile, the low-cost airline, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian flag carrier Air India, has received aid from the Tata Group owned company during the crisis.

In a news release, Air India Express stated that AI will be offering support by operating on 20 of the former’s routes. “We will be operating 283 flights today. We have mobilised all resources and Air India will support us by operating on 20 of our routes. However, 85 of our flights stand cancelled and we urge our guests booked to fly with us to check if their flight is affected by the disruption before heading to the airport,” the release said.

The aviation company also offered flyers a full refund or the option to reschedule their trip to a later date without any fees if the flights get delayed by more than three hours.

Why did the mass leave take place?

As per reports, Air India Express employees are protesting against the new employment terms. “The crew, the sources said, has alleged a lack of equality in the treatment of staff. They have claimed that some staff members have been offered lower job roles despite clearing interviews for senior positions, the sources said. The crew has also flagged some modifications in their compensation package. These developments are taking place even as the airline is in the middle of a merger with AIX Connect (formerly AirAsia India),” an NDTV report read.

Employees union unhappy

The termination has left the Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) unhappy. The organisation claims to represent the crew members. Weighing in on the issue, it has written to the management, accusing it of straying away from commitments, and mismanagement of staff.

Interestingly, the aviation company doesn’t recognise AIXEU or any other employees’ union, reports said citing sources.

“Blatant violations of labour laws”

The company has come under criticism from the regional labour commissioner in New Delhi, Ashok Perumalla. In a May 3 e-mail to Air India Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran and others, Perumalla pointed to the “blatant violations of labour laws”, NDTV said quoting the copy.

“The management of Air India Express has not sent any responsible decision-makers to any of the conciliation proceedings. Mismanagement and blatant violations of labour laws were apparent,” Perumalla reportedly wrote.

“The HR department tried to mislead the conciliation officer with the wrong information and an idiotic interpretation of legal provisions,” he reportedly added.

The commissioner has called for corrective measures.