Pilots' 'go-slow' protest costs airline millions

Pilots of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Thursday agreed to end their go-slow protest over pay which had forced the flag carrier to cancel dozens of flights, the government said.

After negotiations with pilots and PIA management at the defence ministry in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, both sides had agreed to revert to a normal schedule, the government said in a statement.

"The talks were held in cordial atmosphere. The issues were discussed at length. Both sides came to a mutual agreement," it said.

"As a result of these talks the PIA flights will revert to the normal, schedule and both sides will deliberate and conclude a working agreement with in the stipulated time frame," it said.

PIA spokesman Sultan Hassan said earlier losses had reached nearly six million dollars over the past six days as the pilots, who were protesting over pay, employed various disruptive tactics such as calling in sick just before flights.

"So far 16 international and 11 domestic flights have been cancelled due to pilots' go-slow protests," he told AFP.

"It has caused us 450 million rupees (A$7.8 million) loss so far and the losses could increase if the situation persists further," Hassan said.

The go-slow affected hundreds of passengers destined mainly for Europe, prompting protests by stranded travellers at Lahore and Islamabad airports.

Members of PIA's senior management who are qualified pilots were forced to man the planes in a bid to mitigate cancellations.

"Our senior general managers are also operating the flights to avoid delays and cancellations," Hassan said.

The Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA) said it wanted pay rises of at least 35 percent raise for the pilots. The airline said raising the salaries would cost 640 million rupees (A$11.16 million).

PIA has suffered huge losses of A$1.2 billion over the past five years, company officials say, but sinking fuel prices have helped to arrest the decline.

"After suffering 72 billion rupees in five years we have just came to a situation of break-even now," Hassan said.

AFP

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