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File photo of an Air India Express plane used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: Passengers travelling between UAE and India were among those stranded after multiple Air India Express flights were cancelled or delayed from Tuesday night onwards.

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The low-cost airline of Air India said the disruption was a result of “a section of our cabin crew” reporting sick “at the last minute”.

The TATA Group-owned carrier added: “Guests impacted by cancellations will be offered a full refund or complimentary rescheduling to another date. Guests flying with us today [Wednesday] are requested to check if their flight is affected, before heading to the airport.”

“While we are engaging with the crew to understand the reasons behind these occurrences, our teams are actively addressing this issue to minimise any inconvenience caused to our guests as a result,” the airline said on Wednesday.

“We sincerely apologise to our guests for this unexpected disruption and emphasise that this situation does not reflect the standard of service we strive to provide.”

Stuck in UAE

Vijayakumar Govindarasu, who was scheduled to fly from Sharjah to Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu at 9.30pm on Wednesday, was among passengers from the UAE whose flights have been cancelled.

“After hearing about the flight disruptions, I decided to go to the airport early and checked with the airline and they said my flight was cancelled. I am stuck here now. I am checking with other airlines if I can get on to any other flight tonight itself,” he told Gulf News from Sharjah International Airport on Wednesday evening.

Stranded in India

Many flights to and from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah have been cancelled, according to the flight status provided on the airline’s website. Sources said while many flights from the UAE were cancelled, operations to some destinations in India were unaffected.

Television reports and videos on social media posts from India showed several passengers including those heading to the UAE stranded at different airports. Among those stranded were people who were on emergency leave, some facing immediate expiry of visas and those required to report to work immediately.

Sharjah resident Abraham M was among hundreds of passengers who were stranded in India.

Speaking to Gulf News from Kerala, Abraham said he had gone home for a 10-day leave after his father had fallen sick. “My flight to Dubai was scheduled at 5am today [Wednesday] from Thiruvananthapuram. When I reached the airport, I saw on the display board that an Abu Dhabi flight was delayed. But, the airline staff said the Dubai flight would operate. However, both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai flights were cancelled later.”

Abraham said the passengers questioned the airline ground staff following which they opened a ticket counter outside the terminal. “There were many people who had to reach the UAE immediately. Some passengers got their tickets cancelled so that they could fly on other airlines while some passengers got their tickets rescheduled,” said Abraham who got his ticket rescheduled and went back home.

WhatsApp number, Chatbot service

The airline also shared a WhatsApp number (+916360012345) for refunds or free rescheduling of impacted flights.

"If their flight is cancelled, or delayed beyond 3 hours, they may opt for a full refund or reschedule to a later date without any fees," Air India Express said in an updated statement.

Afi Ahmed, founder of Smart Travel Group, said: “The airline authorities have said they are working on operating the flights without disruptions. However, several flights were affected today [Wednesday] and passengers are... calling travel agencies. We are also advising them to check the flight status on the website of the airline before heading to the airports.”

He said affected passengers can either cancel their ticket and avail a refund or reschedule their flight to a date within a week without any additional charges via the airline’s website.

“All these services can be done through the chatbot on the site. Passengers can directly book the next available flight. If they need a refund, they can opt for the same. If they had booked the ticket online, the refund will be credited to the card they used to purchase the ticket. If the ticket was purchased via a travel agency, the refund amount will be directed through the agency,” added Ahmed.