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Air India Express Forced to Cancel Hundreds of Flights as Cabin Crew Take Part in Mass ‘Sick Out’

Air India Express Forced to Cancel Hundreds of Flights as Cabin Crew Take Part in Mass ‘Sick Out’

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Air India Express, a subsidiary of the Tata Group’s Air India airline, has been forced to cancel at least 175 flights over the last two days after dozens of cabin crew took part in a mass ‘sick out’ on Tuesday evening.

The apparently coordinated but unauthorised sick out saw at least 100 cabin crew call out sick just before they were due to report for their duties, the airline has said.

In response, Air India Express has already terminated 100 cabin crew with immediate effect, claiming they violated the company’s procedures by turning off their phones and becoming uncontactable shortly after calling sick.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, Air India Express has cancelled 175 flights and delayed dozens more as the airline scrambles to find available staff to cover its schedule.

“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,” a spokesperson for the airline told Reuters.

Citing the “unprofessional behaviour” of some crew members, chief executive Aloke Singh said the airline had been forced to draw back its schedule for the next few days.

“Over 100 of cabin crew colleagues have reported sick prior to their rostered flight duty, at the last minute, severely disrupting our operations,” Singh was quoted as saying.

The majority of crew members who called sick were assigned the head cabin crew position, creating a “disproportionate” impact on Air India’s operations, Singh explained.

Describing the mass sick out as a “crisis”, Singh continued: “This act is certainly not representative of the 2,000-odd cabin crew colleagues in the company who continue to respond to the call of duty and serve our guests with dedication and pride”.

The reason for the mass sickness hasn’t been fully verified, but Singh said the airline was reaching out to crew members to discuss their concerns.

Matt’s take

Although one hundred crew members going sick at the last minute is unusual, Singh is right in saying that the sick out has had a disproportionate affect on the airline’s operations.

Aviation regulators in most countries require all flights to have at least one ‘senior’ crew member onboard who has received additional training. Because only one senior crew member is required per flight, proportionately, there are fewer crew members of this rank at an airline.

A mass sick-out of senior crew members is going to force an airline to cancel or delay flights even if there are lots of non-senior crew members available to work because the flight can’t be legally operated without a senior crew member assigned.

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