Kin of man who died in Oman protest outside AISATS office over cancelled flight, seek damages

The family of a man who died in Oman recently protested with his body outside the AISATS office here on Thursday, seeking compensation, stating that had Air India Express not cancelled flights, his wife would have been by his side and he may not have died.
Kerala widow's family protests outside airline office, seeks compensation
Kerala widow's family protests outside airline office, seeks compensation

Thiruvananthapuram | The family of a man who died in Oman recently protested with his body outside the AISATS office here on Thursday, seeking compensation, stating that had Air India Express not cancelled flights, his wife would have been by his side and he may not have died.

The family members of the deceased said his wife was unable to go and see him due to the AI Express cabin crew strike, which led to repeated flight cancellations -- and he died in that Gulf nation with no one to take care of him.

The man's father-in-law claimed that had the wife been provided a ticket to travel, maybe the death could have been prevented.

The body of the man was brought to Kerala in the morning, and his relatives went with it directly to the office of Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Limited (AISATS) -- which provides gateway services that include ground handling, passenger assistance and air cargo handling.

The relatives kept the body in front of the steps of the building housing the AISATS office and silently stood around it, according to visuals shown on TV channels.

The father-in-law blamed the death on the airline's indifference.

Later, he went and sat outside the main doors of the AISATS office and said he would not budge from there until Air India Express took a decision with regard to what happened.

"Let the last rites and rituals be held, but I will not leave here till they make a decision. This should not happen to anyone else in the future.

"They have to take care of my grandkids and my daughter. They need to compensate us for the loss. Till they take a decision on that, I will not go from here," he said.

He said that those working at the AISATS office were claiming that they have nothing to do with AI Express. He questioned, "But why is Air India written in big letters on the board here?" He also claimed that, till now, the airline has not even refunded the cancelled ticket amount. "But refunds are not our main concern," he added.

Subsequently, AI Express officials arrived there and held a discussion with the family members, including the woman's father, in the presence of police.

After the discussions, the protest was called off, and the body was taken home to perform the last rites.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan sought immediate intervention by the airline as well as the central and state governments in the matter.

He too said that had the wife, Amrita, been able to go to Oman, perhaps her husband's life could have been saved.

"She could not complete that crucial journey in her life, and Air India Express cannot escape its responsibility," Satheesan said.

He said that besides Amrita, there were many others who were also affected by the AI Express flight cancellations. "There are those who lost their jobs or could not rejoin work in time," he pointed out.

Amrita's husband was hospitalised in Muscat, Oman due to heart problems and was in the ICU, leading to her decision to book tickets on an AI Express flight for May 8.

However, she, along with hundreds of other passengers, were in for a rude shock when they reached airports across the state when they were informed that all flights were cancelled.

Her protest at the airport earned her a ticket for the next day on another Air India Express flight, but unfortunately that too was cancelled and she had to abandon her travel plans altogether.

On May 13, her husband died in Muscat.

Amrita's family had said it was unfair that she could not see her husband for one last time.

They said that they had begged the airline to accommodate her on some other flight so that she could see him for one last time, but AI Express did not do anything.

Her husband was hospitalised following a massive heart attack.

Air India Express had cancelled "scores of flights" last week due to a shortage of cabin crew members, as a section of them reported sick to protest against alleged mismanagement at the Tata Group-owned airline.

Discontent has been brewing among a section of the cabin crew at the low-cost carrier for some time now, especially after the process began for the merger of AIX Connect, formerly AirAsia India, with Air India Express.

Later, on May 10, the strike by a section of the cabin crew was called off and the airline also withdrew termination letters issued to 25 striking cabin crew.

From May 8 to May 10, Air India Express had to cancel over 260 flights due to cabin crew shortage, an airline source said.

On May 12, the airline had said that it was slowly restoring its flights and stabilising the network and that full normalcy was expected by Tuesday. The same day, the cabin crew union had said that all members who had reported sick had joined duty by May 11.

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