Home » Aviation » PAL scraps more flights; cabin crew threatens strike

PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL) cancelled more flights as a meeting brokered by President Benigno Aquino III between PAL management and the flag carrier’s pilots on Monday evening failed to produce results.

Another meeting was scheduled for yesterday in Malacañang to end a dispute between the airline and its pilots who resigned over the weekend to answer the lure of jobs in the Middle East that paid two to three times more.

PAL on Monday said two to three domestic flights are to be canceled every day for the rest of the week due to the lack of pilots for Airbus A320 and A319 jets. Since Friday, around 35 domestic and international flights have been disrupted after the resignation of 13 pilots and 12 first officers.

The cancellations have affected over 1,300 passengers every day.

As if its troubles weren’t enough, PAL also faces a cabin crew strike in a month’s time. The 1,600 crew are complaining of labor anomalies, including the reduction of attendants working per flight, retirement at age 40, and no pay increase over the last three years.

Transport Secretary Jose De Jesus said he expects an agreement between PAL management and its pilots within the week but noted government is prepared to take over operations of the airline if a solution is not reached soon. “I think they are aware of that without us having to say it,” de Jesus said at a briefing in Malacañang on Monday.

Government has warned of adverse effects to the image of the Philippines if the row continues indefinitely.

Cebu Pacific has been asked to pick up the slack from PAL but declined because it was already operating at full capacity.

PAL in a press statement on Sunday demanded the resigned pilots return to work in seven days or face criminal and administrative sanctions for violating provisions of the Labor Code and policies of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

The carrier said some of the pilots “even owe PAL millions of pesos for the cost of their training.”

PAL said pilots and aircraft mechanics are considered “mission critical skills” and required by government regulations to give their local employers at least 180 days or six months to find suitable replacements before taking another job abroad.

But Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in a television interview on Monday said little can be done at this juncture because there is no expressed dispute between the management and the pilots.

PAL, she said, may sue for breach of contract but the pilots who are already abroad will just pay off the damages. She instead proposed PAL increase salaries and benefits to avert future mass resignations.

The Association of Pilots in the Philippines claimed the pilot resignations stemmed from PAL’s transfer of part of its 150-seat A320 fleet to sister company Air Philippines in a bid to better compete with dominant low-cost carrier, Cebu Pacific.

The decision meant the forcible transfer of pilots to Air Philippines where salaries were smaller. A total of 11 senior captains and seven junior officers were affected by PAL’s move.

Younger pilots who feared suffering the same fate began to look for jobs elsewhere.

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