The Indian new year has brought good news for the large Keralite population residing in the UAE and the Gulf, with Air India Express (AIE) announcing the reinstatement of 12 flights a week between the southern Indian state and the region.
The flights will launch as early as next month, a relief for those struggling to get bookings during the peak festive period, with another 14 starting from January.
AIE Chief Operating Officer, Captain Pawan Arora, made the announcement yesterday at a news conference in Kerala.
The reinstated flights include: Dubai-Kozhikode on Wednesdays and Saturdays; Dubai-Thiruvananthapuram on Saturdays; Abu Dhabi-Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesdays and Sundays; Sharjah-Thiruvananthapuram on Thursdays.
AIE had announced the cancellation of as many as 300 flights from Kozhikode, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Mangalore airports in September due to a staff shortage, causing uproar among the Indian expats here.
Later, the same month, some of the flights were reinstated when government body, National Aviation Co of India (NACIL), which oversaw the Air India and Indian merger, revoked the cancellation of the flights to five Gulf destinations, which included several UAE routes.
NACIL then declared the budget airline would only halt a part of the flights from September 7 to October end to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Muscat and Kuwait, citing shortage of cabin crew and tough regulations of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) following the Mangalore air crash, which originated from Dubai and killed 158 passengers and crew.
At the time of cancellation, Abhay Pathak, regional head of Air India in the Gulf, had told Emirates 24|7 the airline was rescheduling the operations of the Gulf services to abide by the rule that airline crew should not fly more than 1,000 hours per year.
“There is a rule that cabin crew should not exceed more than 10,000 hours of flying in a year. There is no way we will be able to meet this target unless we cancel some of the services,” he had said.
However, according to him, the number of flights cancelled was exaggerated.
“It only means that the airline has cancelled two or three flights from various destinations. For example, from Sharjah to Thiruvananthapuram we reduced the number of flights from four to two… However, new recruitments are on and the personnel are being trained,” he had added.
According to an AIE press statement, a recruitment exercise for cabin crew has been conducted and they are being trained in a phased manner starting every Monday effective from this month. This will help overcome the crew shortage and hence Flight operations from Kerala will not be disturbed in the future, it said.