Air India Express Sickout Protest Grounds Over 160 Flights

Air India Express cancels over 160 flights due to a sickout protest by senior cabin crew members opposing the airline's merger with AirAsia India. The airline terminates 25 crew members, citing reputational damage and monetary loss.

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Trim Correspondents
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Air India Express Sickout Protest Grounds Over 160 Flights

Air India Express Sickout Protest Grounds Over 160 Flights

In a major disruption to air travel, a sickout protest by senior cabin crew members of Air India Express, a Tata Group-owned airline, has led to the cancellation of over 160 flights on Wednesday and Thursday. The crew members called in sick en masse to protest the merger of the low-cost domestic service with AirAsia India, fearing potential job losses.

Why this matters: The increasing use of sickouts as a collective bargaining tool in key operations roles can have far-reaching consequences for industries that rely heavily on timely services, such asaviation and healthcare. If left unchecked, this trend could lead to more frequent disruptions and compromise the overall quality of service, ultimately affecting the general public.

The protest, which began on May 7, 2024, involved around 327 senior cabin crew members reporting sick, causing significant inconvenience to passengers and reputational damage to the airline. Air India Express operates approximately 2,500 flights weekly across 31 domestic and 14 international airports, with a workforce of 2,600 cabin crew members.

In response to the sickout, Air India Express terminated 25 crew members who participated in the protest, citing their actions as "subversive of public interest" and causing "embarrassment, severe reputational damage, and serious monetary loss" to the company. The termination letter stated that the crew members' actions were "pre-meditated and concerted" without a justifiable reason.

Air India Express CEO Aloke Singh emphasized that the strike did not represent the dedication and pride of the airline's 2,000-odd cabin crew colleagues who continued to report for duty and serve guests. The airline offered refunds or complimentary rescheduling to affected passengers as a gesture of goodwill.

The Indian government has sought a report from Air India Express regarding the sickout protest and advised the airline to resolve the issues promptly while ensuring facilities are provided to passengers. The aviation sector has witnessed several instances of sickouts being used as a collective bargaining tool to disrupt operations and force management to address grievances.

The Air India Express sickout protest has resulted in the cancellation of 86 flights on Wednesday and 74 on Thursday, causing significant disruptions to the airline's operations and inconvenience to passengers. As the airline works to resolve the issues with its cabin crew, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the power of collective action in the aviation industry.

Key Takeaways

  • Air India Express cancels 160+ flights due to cabin crew sickout protest.
  • Protest is against merger with AirAsia India, fearing job losses.
  • 25 crew members terminated for participating in the protest.
  • Airline offers refunds/rescheduling to affected passengers.
  • Indian government seeks report, advises prompt resolution.