Air India Express averted further travel chaos on Thursday after reaching an agreement with its protesting cabin crew. The agreement, brokered by the Chief Labour Commissioner in Delhi, included the reinstatement of 25 crew members who were fired earlier for calling in sick as a form of protest.

This development came after a host of cabin crew members reported sick, crippling flight operations. The conciliation talks on Monday addressed the core issues, with both sides agreeing that all crew members who reported sick would need to return to duty with a doctor’s certificate.

“The Chief Labour Commissioner pointed out that the airline’s legal team wasn’t following labor laws,” revealed a source. “Specifically, they weren’t considering the cabin crew as workmen and refused to acknowledge the union.” The source added, “The Commissioner emphasized the importance of following labor laws. Management assured they would hold discussions with the employees and improve internal communication to address their concerns.”

The core grievances of the cabin crew revolved around alleged mismanagement by Air India Express. They specifically protested unequal treatment and pay discrepancies compared to their counterparts at Air Asia India. Crew members also claimed that Air Asia India staff received permanent positions, while Air India Express employees faced unexplained terminations.

An Air India Express spokesperson acknowledged the situation, stating, “We are committed to addressing any concerns our cabin crew colleagues may have. However, we are taking appropriate action against certain individuals whose actions caused serious inconvenience to thousands of our passengers.”

The airline had initially set a harsh deadline of 4 pm on Thursday for the protesting crew to return to work. The situation escalated when the Civil Aviation Ministry intervened, requesting a report on the mass flight cancellations. Air India Express was forced to cancel over 170 flights since Tuesday night due to the severe crew shortage.

The agreement brokered during conciliation talks included a follow-up meeting scheduled for May 28th or 29th. This meeting will delve deeper into the remaining issues raised by the cabin crew, such as concerns about shared rooms, contract renewals, and hotel upgrades, along with other existing issues.

“The management will review the cases of these cabin crew members as per service regulations,” a representative assured during the talks. All issues raised by the cabin crew, both before and during the conciliation proceedings, are slated for thorough examination and resolution. The company did not respond to businessline’s query on the said agreement. 

In the interim, Air India Express is operating a reduced schedule with the support of Air India, covering 20 of their disrupted routes. However, the airline had advised passengers to check their flight status before heading to the airport, as flights remained canceled.