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Air India Ltd.'s budget carrier canceled almost 30 flights since Tuesday, according to data from tracking company FlightAware, after cabin crew called in sick en masse.

"A section of our cabin crew has reported sick at the last minute, starting last night, resulting in flight delays and cancellations," Air India Express said in a statement Wednesday. The airline is engaging with crew to understand why they went on collective sick leave, according to the statement.

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FlightAware data showed Air India Express had canceled 20 flights as of Tuesday evening while almost one third, or 79 flights, were delayed. Around 1 per cent of Air India Express flights were shown as being impacted on Wednesday, according to FlightAware.

The staff sick leave adds to troubles facing Tata Group's aviation business "- in the midst a revamp after the conglomerate bought Air India from the government in 2021 "- and echoes the experience at Vistara, the Singapore Airlines Ltd. local affiliate that's expected to merge with Air India by the end of the year.

Pilots at Vistara called in sick en masse last month after voicing complaints about fatigue and pay cuts. That forced the airline to cancel more than 100 flights over the course of a week and eventually scale back flights by 25 to 30 a day to prevent further cancellations.

Air India pilots then subsequently echoed the concerns of Vistara staff about being overworked and underpaid, saying those issues are "systemic" across Tata's airlines.

Air India Express, for its part, will offer refunds and the option to reschedule flights to customers affected by the cancellations, according to Wednesday's statement. Local media reported protests by irate passengers at airports in Kerala in India's south and some outlets said as many as 86 domestic and international flights were impacted.