Air India CMD Rohit Nandan is learnt to have made it clear to the erring staffers that he had viewed their indiscipline very seriously. "February virtually saw an unannounced industrial action by cabin crew members who sauntered in to report for flights when they wished. The on time performance of international flights during that month fell as low as 35%," said a source.
While 17 cabin crew members were sacked, two to three top union leaders have been suspended. "One of them wrote a letter to the Australian civil aviation authority complaining lack of rest by AI. The airline gives them rest as per rules of the Indian DGCA that are applicable to all desi carriers. The writing to a foreign agency was considered an anti-national act and the union leader who allegedly wrote the letter was suspended," said a senior official. In addition, two more unions leaders have been suspended — one on complaints of foreign exchange management act!AI had terminated the 17 cabin crew members in nine days from February 24 to March 4. While 16 of these sacked personnel are airhostesses, one is a flight purser.
Air India (domestic) flights have among the lowest on time performance (DGCA) month after month in the figures released by the DGCA. Alarm bells started ringing in AI last month when the OTP of even the international flights fell to a mere 35% - which meant that 65% of the overseas flights were delayed - for some time. Among other reasons, instances of rampant crew indiscipline crew reporting late for work figured high when an analysis for the unusually poorer-than-usual OTP last few months was done recently.
AI had on February 20 issued a general notice warning crew that if they do not reach airport in time to operate flights on time, the airline will take penal action against them — including terminating their services. Four airhostesses lost their jobs just days after this warning was issued. AI has 3,600 cabin crew.
This is the second time ever that the airline management has acted tough with its employees in a bid to improve performance. In 2002, the aviation ministry backed the management move to sack 99 pilots of Air India (erstwhile AI that operated wide body planes overseas) when they went on strike. It later took back all but 13 pilots despite all types of pressure on the management.