Wednesday, August 4, 2010

PAL claims operations are back to normal

MANILA, Philippines - Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) claimed on Tuesday afternoon that its operations have returned to "normal" despite an ongoing labor dispute between management and a number of resigned pilots.

This as it announced new schedules for 3 flights it earlier axed when the resignations rendered the airline undermanned.

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said PAL's average 160 domestic and international flights daily continue to operate normally. Only one flight each to Iloilo, Bacolod and Cagayan de Oro have been rescheduled, while all other flights to these provinces remain unchanged.

"All flights continue as scheduled except those to and from Bacolod (PR135/136); Cagayan de Oro (PR 181/182 except Thursdays); and Iloilo (PR147/148). Passengers booked on rescheduled flights are being advised accordingly to avoid any inconvenience or delays at the airport," she said.

PAL had cut flights to adjust for fewer pilots of short-haul aircraft that serve domestic and regional routes.

Twenty-five pilots and first officers of the airline quit abruptly last week, forcing the cancellation of 18 PAL flights on Saturday and Sunday and 4 domestic flights on Monday.

The government has since stepped in, with members of President Benigno Aquino's cabinet meeting PAL management to resolve the issue before it affects tourism and travel.

While PAL claims that the pilots walked out to take higher-paid jobs abroad, the government said the pilots have also complained of "demotion" following PAL's plan to restructure domestic flights.

PAL had threatened to sue the pilots for failing to comply with its 180 days' notice rule before resigning. PAL also said the pilots still owed the airline part of their training costs.

However, after talks with government, PAL agreed to waive the sanctions on condition that the pilots return to work.

"The government requested PAL to take back the resigned pilots without sanctions. We agreed," said PAL president Jaime Bautista.

"There is no labor dispute as far as the pilots are concerned. Their main reason for leaving is purely on financial or economic reasons. All we are asking is for the pilots to honor their contracts consistent with regulations issued by the POEA in 2006," Bautista added.

Under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Memorandum Circular No. 3 Series of 2006, pilots and airline mechanics are required to give their local employers 180 days' notice before leaving so replacements could be trained.

In the meantime, travel agencies are urging other local airlines to pick up the slack in domestic air travel affected by labor issues at PAL.

Story from ABS-CBN News