PAL flight schedule should return to normal within a week
Philippine Airlines (PAL) expects operations to be normalized within a week as it demanded its more than two dozen pilots to return to work.
In a statement, the Lucio Tan-owned airline carrier rejected the resignation of its pilots and called to respect their existing contracts.
The airline demanded pilots to immediately return to work or face civil, criminal and administrative charges.
On Sunday, PAL flight schedule was again forced to cancel eight flights owing to the pilot shortage, but most affected passengers were accommodated in merged or succeeding flights.
The eight canceled flights include Manila-Cagayan-Manila; Manila-Bacolod-Manila; Manila-Iloilo-Manila; and Manila-Cebu-Manila.
“PAL makes sure that all passengers are attended to,” the airline said as it assured the public that it hopes to get schedules back to normal “within a week.”
In the last few days, PAL was forced to cancel several regional and domestic flights after 13 captains and 12 first officers flying its Airbus A319s and A320s resigned from the flag carrier.
They left without giving PAL ample time to train replacements, PAL said.
Representatives of the Association of Airline Pilots of the Philippines (ALPAP) were not available for comments as of press time.
PAL said many of the pilots did not show up for work and just handed in their resignation letters.
Some of them even owe PAL millions of pesos for the cost of their training.
PAL spends about P14 million to train each pilot for a period of 10 years.
“PAL doesn’t want to get in the way of its pilots’ dream of landing better paying jobs abroad but they have contractual obligations with the company and a moral responsibility to thousands of passengers,” PAL said.
PAL added that most of the resigned pilots were reportedly ‘pirated’ by other carriers in the Asian region, including the Middle East, where the pay is allegedly two or three times their current salaries.
“By Philippine standards, an Airbus A320 pilot’s pay at PAL is considered ‘high’. But it’s still no match to the offer of foreign carriers. Our problem is, our competitors abroad seem to prefer PAL pilots because they were highly-trained by PAL and renowned for their flying skills,” PAL added.
PAL earlier said that a local pilot only received a salary of $ 2,000 to US$ 3,000 compared to the US$ 8,000 to US$ 12,000 a month that the foreign airlines offer.
Considered “Mission Critical Skills," PAL said pilots and aircraft mechanics are 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.
PAL said it is in talks with various government agencies like the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to avert the loss of more pilots to ‘poachers” abroad.
The airline also intensified the training of more pilots to fill the gap.
A total of 120 pilots from all local airlines left the country since year 2000.
The country has more than 700 pilots, 450 of whom work for PAL.
To entice pilots to stay in the company, PAL has increased retirements benefits by 50 percent for pilots approaching the age of 60 to 33 1/2 days for every year of service from 22 1/2 days in 2006.
Four years ago, representatives of Air Philippines, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Asian Spirit and various maintenance, rehabilitation and overhaul (MRO) facilities operators submitted a proposal to impose a three to five-year ban on the foreign deployment of skilled airline personnel.
The airline’s flight attendants announced a plan to hold a strike after management’s failure to raise their salary for more than three years and its new policy lowering the compulsory retirement age.
In April, PAL decided to let go of at least 3,000 employees with the spin-off of its three core businesses.
PAL said it was forced to implement the restructuring plan because of the global recession, high fuel prices, the unabated liberalization of the commercial aviation industry, and the recent blacklisting of Philippine carriers by the European Union. ( PAL Flight Schedule ) (PNA)