PAL cuts flights as pilots depart

Agence France Presse

Posted at Aug 03 2010 11:32 AM | Updated as of Aug 03 2010 07:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines  - Philippine Airlines (PAL) said on Tuesday it has axed three flights after a number of pilots walked out to take higher-paid jobs abroad.

The cuts affect domestic routes and make up a tiny portion of the airline's 160 daily trips, while the flag carrier's international flights are not affected, company officials said.

"We would like to assure you that we will not cancel flights to the US," PAL president Jaime Bautista told ABS-CBN television.

The carrier also flies to the Middle East, Australia and East Asia.

"In case there are flight disruptions we can re-book, we can re-issue tickets. There will be no penalties and we will see to it that they will be accommodated in the next available flights," Bautista added.

PAL spokesman Jonathan Gesmundo said three flights to the central and southern Philippines were cut to adjust for fewer pilots of short-haul aircraft that serve domestic and regional routes.

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

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has since stepped in, with members of his cabinet meeting PAL management on Monday to resolve the issue before it affects tourism and travel.

The meetings are expected to continue Tuesday, Bautista said.

"We want them all back," Bautista said.

PAL said the pilots did not comply with an airline rule to give 180 days' notice before resigning. It also says the pilots still owed the airline for part of their training costs.

Bautista said PAL could not compete with the hefty salaries being offered by airlines abroad.

PAL has been beset by growing labour unrest for months with ground crews and flight attendants threatening strikes.