Sources said that they actually went for job interviews but reported sick at the last moment, throwing the airline’s operations in jeopardy. Tata-owned Air India, as well as Jet and Akasa, is in the midst of a massive recruitment drive.
More than half the flights operated by IndiGo were delayed on Saturday after a large number of cabin crew members of the airline did not report for duty. Sources said that they actually went for job interviews but reported sick at the last moment, throwing the airline’s operations in jeopardy. Tata-owned Air India, as well as Jet and Akasa, is in the midst of a massive recruitment drive.
IndiGo, known for its on-time performance, had only 45 per cent of its flights departing on time; more than 850 flights took off more than 15 minutes after their scheduled time. The airline operated around 1,600 flights on Friday and had to cancel around 50 flights. Irate passengers took to social media expressing displeasure over the delays due to which many of them missed their connecting flight or train.
The airline uses its aircraft for around 14 hours per day and a delay in the first flight has a cascading impact on the entire network. The recruitment drive of Air India, for instance, is spread across five major cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Kolkata.
“Most delays happened in Delhi — IndiGo’s largest base. As a result, the entire network saw a cascading impact,” said a person aware of the development.
A pilot of the airline who was operating a flight from Bengaluru said that he waited inside the aircraft for two hours for cabin crew members. The A320 aircraft operated by IndiGo requires at least four cabin crew members for a flight. An IndiGo spokesperson didn’t comment on related queries.
Crew members are allowed to report sick till five hours before the departure of a flight.
Sources said that IndiGo’s management raised the issue with Air India and asked the airline not to recruit crew without a ‘no-objection certificate’ or relieving letter from the current employer. DGCA rules mandate that cabin crew have to give a notice period of at least three months. It may be, however, reduced following the airline’s consent.
An Air India spokesperson didn’t comment on the issue. When asked, Arun Kumar, who heads the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, according to PTI, said: “We are looking into this.” Aviation across the world has been suffering because of a shortage of trained manpower. People laid off by airlines during the pandemic took job in other sectors, especially hospitality.
European airports, too, are witnessing massive disruption, impacting airlines, amid people resuming air travel in large numbers after the Covid-19 pandemic. A senior executive of IndiGo denied that the airline had any shortage of cabin crew members but explained that sudden last-minute leave is difficult to cover up. “There is an adequate crew and we have standby for unforeseen circumstances. But aviation is a highly regulated subject in terms of work pattern and it is impossible to cover up if so many crew members report sick at the last moment,” he said. IndiGo has also ramped up hiring across departments.
Being a cabin crew member is a specialised job and regulations require training of 30 days or 240 hours for fresh hires before they can be inducted for duty. The training is for communication, handling medical emergencies, and security training.
Further, regulations on fatigue management require that no cabin crew shall assign any duty for cabin crew who have exceeded 65 hours of duty in the past seven days and 210 hours in the past 28 consecutive days.