Government to intervene in Philippine Airlines row


MANILA — Officials will hold emergency meetings with national flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc. and its disgruntled pilots to settle a dispute that caused the cancellation of local and international flights, the president said Sunday.

PAL was forced to cancel at least 10 flights, including one to Hong Kong, on Saturday after 25 pilots flying Airbus A320 and A319 aircraft resigned to seek better-paying jobs abroad. Eight domestic flights were canceled on Sunday, the airline said.

President Benigno Aquino III told a news conference a number of his Cabinet members, including those dealing with labor, transport and justice, will separately meet PAL’s management and the pilots as early as Monday to prevent damage to the economy.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to come up with a resolution so that the riding public is not inconvenienced and the economy does not suffer in what is an inter-company dispute,” Mr. Aquino said.

PAL spokesman Jonathan Gesmundo said the airline ordered the pilots, who resigned in recent days, to return to work, warning them of possible criminal suits for alleged breach of work contracts.

Under government regulation, the pilots needed to stay with PAL for at least six months after resigning to allow the airline to find replacements. Some of the resigned pilots also signed a contract committing to work for PAL for a few years in exchange for the costly aviation-school training provided by the airline, Mr. Gesmundo said.

“PAL doesn’t want to get in the way of its pilots’ dream of landing better paying jobs abroad,” the airline said in a statement. “But they have contractual obligations with the company and a moral responsibility to thousands of passengers.”

The resigned pilots weren’t immediately available for comment.

The airline said steps, including the training of more pilots, were under way to bring flights back to normal within a week.

PAL, founded in 1941, has about 500 pilots and a fleet of 38 aircraft. It flies to 46 domestic and international destinations. It has incurred losses in the last few years because of rising fuel costs and low passenger loads, according to Mr. Gesmundo.