MANILA, Philippines - A former pilot of Philippine Airlines (PAL) was ordered by the Makati Regional Trial Court to pay the flag carrier over P3 million for violating his contractual obligations when he went absent without leave (AWOL) in 2006.
In a decision dated September 15, 2010, Judge Elpidio Calis of the Makati RTC Branch 133 ordered Zenon Lukban to pay PAL P1.5 million plus interest, at the rate of 6% annually, for the cost of his training at the PAL Aviation School.
In addition, the former pilot was ordered to reimburse PAL some P1.87 million, plus interest, for the cost of training his replacement, as well as P50,000 in attorney's fees.
Lukban’s agreement with PAL required him to serve the flag carrier for 5 years in exchange for the cost of his training.
Court records showed, however, that on April 19, 2006, only 2 years after completing his training, Lukban wrote a letter of resignation to PAL chief pilot Capt. Rolly Canlas.
PAL management rejected Lukban's resignation, saying this was in violation of his training contract, but Lukban had already gone AWOL.
PAL's rules require a pilot to file his notice of resignation 120 days before the intended date of resignation. This requirement has been changed to 180 days after the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration declared the job of pilots and aircraft mechanics as "mission critical skills."
The Makati RTC order comes on the heels of PAL’s move to lodge multi-million peso damage suits against 27 pilots and first officers who quit their posts in the Airline last August to take higher-paying jobs in the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia.
So far, 16 pilots and first officers are facing charges of abandonment of duty and breach of contract before a Makati court.
The abrupt resignations forced PAL, which is currently mired in a labor dispute with its cabin crew and ground unions, to cancel some of its domestic flights last July.