As many as 24 international flights of Air India Express (AIE) between October 17 and 29 from the State have been cancelled following the low-cost carrier's decision to use its aircraft optimally and rest the commanders during the “non-peak” season, coupled with a shortage of cockpit crew.
“In view of the continued shortage of commanders and due to a sharp decline in number of expat pilots, it has become imperative to continue the existing restructuring of some of the flights to ensure that the maximum connectivity is maintained all over the network,” the airline said in a communication to its regional units.
The cancelled flights include IX 343/344 connecting Kozhikode and Dubai on October 18, 23, and 25; IX 539/540 connecting Thiruvananthapuram and Dubai on October 17, 21, 24, and 28; and IX 535/536 connecting Thiruvananthapuram and Sharjah on October 18 and 25.
IX 549/554 operating on the Thiruvananthapuram-Muscat-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram sector on October 18 and 25 have been cancelled citing crew shortage.
From Kozhikode, IX 337/350 connecting Kozhikode and Muscat on October 17, 19, 24, and 26 have been cancelled.
The airline has combined the IX 435/434 Kochi-Dubai-Kochi flight and the IX 419/452 Kochi-Abu Dhabi-Kochi flight on all days from October 17 to 29. The Kochi-Dubai-Abu Dhabi-Kochi flight will depart from Kochi at 9.25 p.m. IX 343/344 connecting Kozhikode and Dubai on October 16 have also been cancelled.
Airline sources said alternative arrangements had been made, including providing seats on other flights and informing the passengers personally. This had resulted in avoiding unsavoury situations at the airports. The airline had cancelled several flights during the October 9-16 period citing a crew shortage.
When contacted, a spokesman of the national carrier said the pilots and commanders were being “sensibly” rested as it was the non-peak season. The commanders and other pilots could only fly 1,000 hours a year under the norms of the Director-General of Civil Aviation. “We are sensibly resting the commanders and the pilots and will use them effectively during the peak month of December,” he said.
The airline official said as it was a non-peak season, the load on a 186-seat Air India Express flight was 75-80 on an average. “That is why we are combining some seats. Still there are enough seats for those willing to travel at the last minute,” he said.
However, airline sources said 120-125 seats were getting filled on Air India Express flights from Thiruvananthapuram on an average.