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China Airlines pilots’ strike leads to angry scenes as passengers left stranded at Taiwan’s airports
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, with the 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 largest carrier, said earlier that at least 26 inbound and outbound flights would be cancelled between Friday and Sunday, including ones to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila. About half of them were scheduled to depart from Kaohsiung.
The airline apologised for the inconvenience caused but sought to pass the blame to the pilots, saying their “unreasonable” demands had led to a breakdown in talks between management and union representatives.
“About 4,000 passengers will be affected by the strike over the next two days,” airline president Hsieh Shih-chien, said, adding that about 700 of the company’s 2,500 pilots were on strike.
The industrial action comes amid 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
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.Source: South China Morning Post
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