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Infighting among woman crew members mars VVIP flight training, Air India puts session on hold

Two groups of women flight crew have written to Air India CMD arguing over the eligibility to be trained for the VVIP flight operations.

Infighting among woman crew members mars VVIP flight training, Air India puts session on hold

Infighting among woman crew members mars VVIP flight training, Air India puts session on hold

We all have heard of many stories of bitter fights between the Air India employees. Fight between pilot and crew, Commander and First Officer, crew and crew, etc. Many of these at times have reportedly turned ugly with the two parties nearly coming to blows with each other over small issues.

But, in a first of sorts, the latest fight making the news in the Air India corridors is between two groups of women cabin crew. And the contention was who is after all fit to serve in the prestigious SESF (Special Extra Section Flights) category that caters to VVIPs on board.

The SESF or VVIP aircraft engages the President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister of the country.

India Today TV is in the possession of two letters written by two cabin crew members and addressed to the CMD of Air India Ashwani Lohani. These two letters have been written on 30 July 2019 and 1 August 2019, respectively.

The letters reflect that there is clear dissatisfaction among a certain group of female employees with some of the crew members chosen for SESF training. While one letter states how some crew members aren’t eligible for the crucial and prestigious job the other states the opposite.

The letter dated 30 July 2019 is written by Ms AK (name changed) a manager based out of Bangalore. The letter reads,

"Sir, we 11 crew members of the Airbus SESF fleet are blocked in CMS roster and have been intimidated about our Boeing SESF training from 5 August 2019. We got to know to our utter surprise that many Boeing cabin crew got together and visited you and put in writing against our training."

The letter further reads, This opportunity (of serving the VVIPs) had always been restricted to a particular section of the crew, which is totally for discrimination. Today when justice is prevailing then a number of Boeing crew [members] have problems, when a fair number of Bom Boeing fleet crew got AGMs promotion at a time neglecting Airbus or multi fleet or pilferage case crew becomes Bom CCTS principal, then no one made a hue and cry about it. DGCA rule violating crew is handling management profile job.

She further adds, My recommendation for being Boeing SESF crew came many times from PMO, from ministers, dignitaries and common esteemed passengers and so I guess I am worth it. Secretary MOCA has written an appreciation for my work.

As a reply to this letter, presuming that the contents were heard by the other group, an open letter was written on 1 August by another female cabin crew member to CMD Air India wherein she has detailed how three chosen female crew were not fit for the job.

One would think impeccable service record, excellent work ethics, and thorough job knowledge, as well as aircraft experience, would be prerequisites and these have been included in the SESF selection policy of the company: Air India limited. In fact, a crew member has to complete at least one year of flying on a type of aircraft to be able to be even considered for SESF on that aircraft, so that they are more thorough with safety aspects of the aircraft. But all the above-mentioned criteria have been completely ignored in the case of recent proposed training of chosen few cabin crew (Multi fleet 320+ 787 aircraft qualified) for SESF to be started from 5 August 2019, the letter states. It further says that at first there was a list of 44 crew members and then appeared a new list of 11 cabin crew members.

Needless to say that the names included in the list are not only controversial but also reek of favouritism. The department has ignored all policies and prerequisites for SESF flights to include these names. And the haste in which their training is being planned and executed seems to have an ulterior motive behind it.

The letter then provides details about two registered cases of misconduct against one female crew on the grounds of an alleged violation of assigned duty and alleged misuse of uniform ID card and airport entry pass among other unreported incidents.

The letter also gives details about another female crew stating that her name was not even on the initial list of 44 crew members chosen for training. For the third cabin crew, the letter states that the female crew chosen had herself applied for ground duties as she had just returned after maternity leave. The letter asks how can someone who had voluntarily chosen ground duties and was supposed to appear for the written exam for the same on 4 August 2019 be chosen for flight training from 5 August 2019.

Furthermore, the letter asks the CMD Air India to reconsider the names given for the SESF training. Sir, these are just a few of the examples of how the airline is misusing its resources and decisions are being taken to favour a select few blue-eyed. Seems that the airline isn’t running professionally but on someone’s personal whims and fancies. Moreover, the timings of this training are such that when the airline is striving hard to stay afloat with mounting losses and unpaid salaries/allowances to its employees, I guess no due consideration is given to the financial implication this training would have.

Air India spokesperson said that following the dispute the above training has been put on hold.

(Note: The names of the women crew have been changed to preserve identity)

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