[photopress:air_cockpit.jpg,full,alignright]Pilots flying for a subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines turned back midflight to southwestern Chinese airports, in a rare strike to protest lower pay and other conditions.
Seventeen flights returned to their departure airports in Yunnan Province in a protest by pilots of China Eastern subsidiary Yunnan Airlines.
The Yunnan Info Daily quoted an unnamed pilot as saying China Eastern flights departing from Kunming airport returned to the city after takeoff on Monday and Tuesday for reasons other than ‘weather conditions’ – the explanation given by the carrier.
The pilots’ complaints seen to be that they limited to domestic routes and therefore shorter flying hours and lower pay than counterparts in the parent company. There is also a question of tax on overtime pay.
State-run television reported the strike as well as passengers’ complaints
Leading financial magazine Caijing said that pilots would not be punished, citing an air administration official.
The return of the flights left at least 1,500 passengers stranded in Kunming airport.
This is the third incident in a month related to the disputes.
More than 40 Shanghai Airlines pilots asked for ‘sick leave’ on March 14, while 11 East Star Airlines pilots ‘took a holiday’ last Friday.
This week’s incidents caught the attention of the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC).
Beijing Times reported that in an emergency meeting, the CAAC said the pilot leading the move could face a lifelong ban on piloting.
The CAAC also asked China Eastern to settle the dispute as soon as possible to guarantee flight safety.
The newspaper quoted insiders as saying the root of problem lies in a national shortage of pilots, especially captains. The CAAC estimated at least 6,500 more pilots are needed by 2010, but only 600 to 800 are trained every year.
Source: China View and Reuters