China Airlines pilots’ strike leads to angry scenes as passengers left stranded at Taiwan’s airports

11-Feb-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

There were angry scenes at Taiwanese airports on Friday as businesspeople and holidaymakers became the victims of industrial action by pilots from China Airlines demanding better working conditions.

“I need to go to Hong Kong for work, but out of the blue they told me my flight was cancelled,” said a passenger at Kaohsiung International Airport, who gave his name as Hsu.

Another man, surname Chen, said that after initially being told by staff his China Airlines flight to Hong Kong had been cancelled he was offered a seat on a flight to neighbouring Macau.

“But then, 10 minutes later, they told me there were no seats,” he said.

China Airlines, Taiwan’s biggest carrier, said on its website that 32 flights were and would be cancelled from Friday to Sunday, and six delayed during the same period.

But on Friday it said that it managed to get help from pilots not involved in the strike, allowing it to minimise the cancellations to 17 and the impact to 3,000 passengers on Friday and Saturday. About 700 of the company’s 2,500 pilots were on strike.

It called on pilots to put travellers first as it prepared for talks with the union scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

The industrial action comes at the island’s busiest period for air travel, with average daily passenger numbers during the Lunar New Year holiday up by more than 40 per cent to about 20,000.

The strike left a sour taste in the mouths of a Taiwanese family of four who were looking forward to a trip to Thailand for the holiday but instead found themselves stranded at Taoyuan International Airport.

“We have booked the hotel and local transport, and now we have to cancel them all because our flight was cancelled,” said the father, who declined to be named.

“Why must we be punished because of your internal dispute, and who is going to compensate us?” he shouted at a member of China Airlines staff.

Travel chaos as China Airlines cancels 18 flights due to pilot strike in Taiwan, including six to or from Hong Kong

According to a list published on the airline’s website by 4pm on Friday, five flights on Friday, including three between Hong Kong and Taipei and two between Hong Kong and Kaohsiung, had been cancelled. On Saturday, three flights between Hong Kong and Kaohsiung and one to Taipei were also cancelled.

At Hong Kong International Airport, a man surnamed Chen said his family of six was told by China Airlines staff they should switch to a 2pm flight to Kaohsiung because it was uncertain if their original 7.40pm flight would be affected by the strike.

“They will tell us by 1pm,” he said. “We will take the earlier flight if there are seats. Now we have to wait.”

The family was wrapping up their four-day trip to Hong Kong for the Lunar New Year. Chen said he did not blame the pilots for the timing of their strike.

“Everybody needs a holiday,” he said.

Cathay Pacific Airways said it was in contact with China Airlines.

“We will endeavour to provide alternative flight arrangements to affected passengers when seats are available in accordance with the established agreement between the two airlines,” it said.

Flights cancelled as China Airlines pilots strike, after Taiwanese firm’s chiefs fail to meet demands for more rest time

The transport ministry in Taipei has set up a task force to deal with the issue, and China Airlines said it would continue to seek a resolution to the dispute.

The Pilots Union Taoyuan said earlier that it had no choice but to take industrial action as the carrier had refused to deal with issues relating to the health and well-being of its members on long-haul flights. A vote in favour of the strike was taken 12 months ago.

After the vote, the union agreed to give the airline’s management time to improve working conditions. Talks between the two sides, and the island’s labour authorities resumed last week, but broke down soon after.

The union said in a statement that the management’s response to its demands was “highly disappointing” and that the company had refused to hire more pilots, citing a sharp rise in personnel costs that would undermine its competitiveness.

China Airlines president Hsieh Shih-chien said the carrier had done all it could to resolve the dispute, having agreed to increase pay rates and give pilots more rest time.

The strike, he said, would cause serious inconvenience to passengers, but the company would do its best to help them reach their destinations.

The airline was hit by a two-day strike by cabin crew in 2016, which resulted in the cancellation of 122 international flights and costs of US$9 million.

More than 30,000 passengers were affected, including about 5,300 Taiwanese who were left stranded overseas.


Category: China

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