Air India debt: Staff willing to forgo pay, say airline gave them identity

An Air India plane
From shrinking the in-flight magazine size to giving up allowances, employees of Air India are coming out with innovative suggestions to help their company to fight the debt burden. This comes as the government is considering privatising the state-owned air carrier.

A cabin crew member in charge of Air India said that he is willing to work for two months without pay, including flying allowance, layover allowance and special allowance when travelling abroad. 

In the letter written to Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) Ashwani Lohani, he said that he has seen the management’s intent of cutting down on expenditure to boost revenues across all spectrums. 

“I know this will not make much difference as an individual, but if this can encourage a small portion of the mammoth employee size, it will make a dent in the Rs 50,000 crore debt wall that holds us in this situation,” the cabin crew member wrote.

The airline which has a massive debt of around Rs 46,000 crore has an outgo of more than Rs 4,000 crore per year as debt servicing.

The emails which are pouring in every day also has suggestions like waiving off allowances of employees transportation claims till the time the company is back to health. 

“For 14 years, the company has given me respect and an identity in the society. Air India has been my family, my society, therefore, I want to give back to the company that has given me years of glory and memory to cherish,” an employee wrote, saying that he is willing to forgo his travelling allowance of more than Rs 400,000 pending over the last three years. 

“I am willing to forgo other allowances too till the company flourishes again,” the employee added.

These offers will be difficult to implement for the management, as Air India is a public-owned company, whose salary payment is governed by the stipulated rules. 

However, the airline is considering some of the suggestions. These range from shrinking the size of in-flight magazine Subh Yatra to eliminating salad from the in-flight menu.

“A private carrier IndiGo started with no in-flight magazine. Later, they decided to have one but it is just of the minimal size. I believe our company should shrink the size of Subh Yatra, if, at all it is necessary to keep, this will help to cut down on fuel requirements,” a senior commander who flies the Boeing 777 wrote to the CMD. 

Then there are suggestions from the cabin crew to eliminate salad from the menu as most passengers seem to not prefer them.

“These are suggestions given by people who have the experience of operating flights be a short distance or long haul, they are fully aware of the passenger behaviour, we will definitely ponder over these,” a senior Air India official said.

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