AI's low-cost carrier wants crew to get uniforms stitched for low cost too

Rs 155 for shirts, Rs 165 for trousers and Rs 275 for salwar kurti this is what Air India Express has said they will pay each crew member to get uniforms stitched; tailors say these rates are ten years behind the market rates

National carrier Air India’s low-cost airline, Air India Express, has sent its crew on a treasure hunt to find a tailor in the city who can stitch their uniforms for rates that are as old as the airline itself.

Yasmin Qureshi, the owner of the shop which was the airline’s official tailor till last year, said the rates were never revised in their eight-year relationship. Pics/Sameer Markande
Yasmin Qureshi, the owner of the shop which was the airline’s official tailor till last year, said the rates were never revised in their eight-year relationship. Pics/Sameer Markande

The crew have been told that they will be reimbursed for the expenses incurred on getting uniforms made, but the allotted amounts are so paltry that the employees will have to spend from their own pockets or risk punitive action for not being appropriately dressed.

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Employees are required to get new uniforms every two years and this set of uniforms is for 2015 and 2016. Till last year, the airline had an official tailor in Versova who would stitch the uniforms; employees just had to collect it from the shop. This year, the carrier has asked the crew to collect the cloth material from the airline’s Kalina office and get it stitched from a tailor of their choosing.

The November circular, issued by the management, detailed guidelines on the uniforms and stated that crew members would be reimbursed for the amounts spent on stitching, provided they produced the receipts. The allocated charges per person are Rs 155 for shirts, Rs 165 for trousers and Rs 1,500 for blazers for men; for women, the airline has set aside Rs 275 for a salwar-kurti set, Rs 140 for a blouse, and Rs 50 for a stole.

The problem, however, is that these charges are not acceptable to any tailor in the market including the airline’s own official tailor, who refused to work at these rates. Aaraish is a tailoring unit in Versova where the airline would get the uniforms stitched.

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Aaraish had been associated with Air India Express for eight years and had been delivering the uniforms at these rates; in November last year, they expressed their inability to continue working at these prices, leading to their contract being terminated. “We had been stitching for the airlines for the past eight years at the same rates, which were never increased.

But after we informed them that it would be impossible for us to follow these rates, the contract came to an end. However, the airline officials still informed me that the employees may contact me personally and I could charge them at my rates,” said Yasmin Qureshi, the shop owner, adding that a few had, indeed, approached her; Qureshi told them the old rates would no longer be valid.

She charges Rs 2,500 for a blazer, Rs 450 for a shirt, Rs 700 for trousers, and Rs 600 for a salwar-kurti. The shop still has some uniforms, which had already been stitched but never collected after the contract was terminated. mid-day visited markets in the suburbs to gauge the current rates, and all the tailors said the prices mentioned in the circular were unrealistic and would only be feasible for factories.

Nilesh Upadhyay, a tailor from Dahisar who works at Janata Emporium, a 20-year-old suiting and shirting outlet, said the rates offered by Air India Express are almost a decade old. “Depending on the design, we charge Rs 2,500 for a blazer, Rs 250 for a shirt, and Rs 350 for a trouser that too for the most basic design.

Knowing the requirements of the airline attendants, prices can go higher,” he said. Similarly, another tailor from Kandivli who has been in the business for more than two decades said the women’s uniform, considering its design and cloth, would cost anywhere between Rs 300-Rs 450.

“Airline uniforms require a lot of work. Nobody in the market today will follow the rates Air India Express is offering. Rs 250 is the minimum rate for the simplest kurti design, but its quality will be nowhere close to what an airline uniform demands,” said Chetan Jethva, from Om Tailors in Kandivli.

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This only means the crew has to spend from its own pocket to procure the uniforms, or risk being taken to task for improper dressing. According to airline sources, the airline last changed the design of its uniform in 2008. Full-service carrier Air India was also on the receiving end of their employees’ ire, after their uniform underwent a redesign this year and the management refused to offer any reimbursement to the cabin crew for getting it made.

Air India Express, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, has 409 crew members and operates over 175 national and international flights every week. Rohit Nandan, MD, Air India, didn’t respond to mid-day’s calls or messages. P N Sasidharan, administration manager, Air India Express, was unavailable for comment.

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