New pilots leave for jobs abroad; PAL cancels 5 flights

08/01/2010 - Even pilots are part of the country’s “brain drain”.
Philippine Airlines had to cancel at least five flights yesterday — one to Hong Kong, the others to Cebu and other domestic destinations — after several Airbus A320 pilots left for higher-paying jobs abroad.

“In the past few days, pilots had not been reporting for duty. This has caused problems for us,” said Jonathan Gesmundo, PAL spokesman, who went on TV and radio stations to apologize to the public for the cancellations.

Nearly a dozen pilots, most of them new-hires, departed for jobs overseas with foreign airlines after resigning in the last two weeks, a familiar story of “brain drain”, an exodus that also affects the ranks of professionals, including teachers and nurses.

At least five flights from Manila to Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Hong Kong were cancelled yesterday.

Today, Sunday, two PAL flights between Cebu and Manila have been cancelled as well, according to the PAL Mactan office.

These are PR 847, 7:30 AM Manila to Cebu and PR 848 at 9:35 AM Cebu to Manila.

If disruptions occur in the days ahead, passengers who booked a flight will be called a day before the cancellation.

Passengers of cancelled flights will be transferred to the next available flight, said Domingo de Guzman, PAL Mactan information officer.

PAL traffic continued for other flights as of yesterday.

A check with the PAL website showed that six flights departed Cebu for Manila yesterday and five arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

The pilots were assigned to 150-seat Airbus A320 aircraft used on domestic and international routes.

Gesmundo said the pilots did not inform the management, but that this was not a group action.

He aid the resignations were not an organized move although they were of the same nature and were only days apart.

To cover the gap, PAL has asked "management pilots," or former pilots that have been promoted to supervisory posts, to fly the while the company looks for replacements.

PAL said it was also adjusting its schedules by merging some flights or upgrading the aircraft to a bigger type to lessen the inconvenience to affected passengers.

PAL said in a statement it will also be filing appropriate charges against the pilots “who chose not to report for work immediately after submitting resignation letters. Most of the pilots still owe PAL the cost of their aviation school training, which run into millions of pesos per pilot.

"PAL regrets the decision of some of its pilots to accept job offers abroad, causing the disruption of PAL's flight schedules due to inadequate flight deck crew to fly the Airbus A320 airplanes," the company said in a press statement.

“The indiscriminate resignation of the A320 pilots for flying jobs whose salaries PAL is unable to match, is in violation of their contracts with PAL as well as with pertinent government regulations that require resigning pilots to give PAL six months to train their replacements,” it said.

Gesmundo said the pilots who left PAL were mostly new hires.

"The A320 is the first jet a pilot flies after graduating from aviation school," he said.

As a result, he said, most of these pilots still owe the company for the flight training tuition that PAL subsidized. Each pilot owes as much as P2 million, Gesmundo said. He said all of the pilots said they would be able to repay what they owe PAL, thanks to the high salaries they will be getting.

Gesmundo said the airline was adjusting its schedule and will probably bring in bigger aircraft to accommodate the stranded passengers.

The indebted flag carrier has said it would lay off some of its 8,000-strong work force because of financial losses in the third straight year (Inquirer)

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