Air India has given an option to the cabin crew who have opted for voluntary retirement scheme to extend their tenure until January 31 next year, amid shortage of cabin crew and long waiting period for US visas, according to sources.
The Tata group-owned airline, which is being revived with expanding fleet and routes, offered Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) to its employees, including the cabin crew, in June this year. The relieving date for those who opted for the VRS was fixed as November 30.
The sources said around 4,500 employees had applied for the scheme.
"The release date from the services of the company for VRS crew has been extended. Crew members may choose to extend their release date till January 31, 2023," the airline said in a communication on Saturday.
A query sent to Air India seeking comments on the matter remained unanswered.
According to the communication, the VRS scheme remains unchanged and the VRS benefit will be applicable to employees who are extending their release date.
Now, Air India has given three release dates for the VRS crew -- November 30, December 1 and January 31, 2023. The people concerned have been given time till November 22 to confirm their date of release.
The actual date of release will be at the discretion of the management, as per the communication.
Why the extension?
The sources said that Air India is facing an acute shortage of cabin crew owing to the VRS scheme. "The airline requires some 500 cabin crew amid its plans to expand the wide-body aircraft fleet and launch new long and ultra long haul flights," one of the sources said.
Moreover, as there is a long waiting period for the US visas, extending the service tenure of these cabin crew who have opted for VRS is the only option to ensure that there are enough crew available for various flights, the sources said.
On Saturday, Air India Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Campbell Wilson said the airline has expanded both domestically and internationally, including more flights to Vancouver, Sydney and Melbourne.
"We now operate non-stop to London from seven Indian cities. From Mumbai we'll be adding new non-stop service to San Francisco, New York and Newark starting in a few weeks. And this is just the start; as we restore and acquire more aircraft, there will be much, much more to come," he had said.
Air India has restored nearly 20 aircraft that had been grounded for years due to lack of parts and lack of money. In addition to restoring long-grounded aircraft, the airline has finalised leases for 30 additional aircraft being delivered over the next 12 months - starting next week - with more in the final stages of negotiation, he had said.