Airline apologizes for ‘return’ incidents


CHINA Eastern Airlines has apologized for its “flight returns” issue in Yunnan Province last week and pledged that affected passengers will receive relevant compensation.

The carrier’s Yunnan subsidiary said passengers could submit their boarding passes and names to the company and they would be compensated after verification.

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China Eastern sent a work team yesterday to the southwestern province to investigate the flight disruptions which affected more than 1,000 passengers.

The work team consisted of a deputy general manager in charge of safety affairs, two officials from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and several other experts, according to Xinhua news agency.

The Shanghai-based China Eastern announced on Saturday that the pilots involved in “flight returns” would be penalized if they were found to have disrupted flights on purpose.

Last Monday, 18 flights returned to the departure point just after taking off in Yunnan, postponing the travel plans of more than 1,000 passengers.

At the time, China Eastern explained that “poor weather” caused the returns. However, media reports suggested pilots were protesting about their pay and working conditions, because other carriers in the region had operated normally.

Pilots have since returned to their positions and the carrier’s operations are back on track.

Conflicts between pilots and state-owned airlines have intensified in recent years because of the short supply. China has 12,000 civilian pilots, but official figures predict that the total number of flights will increase by 80 percent by 2010 and 6,500 more pilots will be required.

The conflicts have also been blamed on lifetime contracts between pilots and state-owned airlines which require pilots to compensate a large sum of money if they want to quit.

China Southern Airlines ordered one of its pilot, surnamed Guo, to pay 10.93 million yuan (US$1.56 billion) for quitting but a Wuhan court last week sentenced Guo to pay 1.8 million yuan in compensation.

The CAAC East China Regional Administration recently issued a new regulation that took effect on April 1, stipulating that an airline can not lose more than one percent of its pilots annually, and that the compensation should be between 700,000 yuan and 2.1 million yuan.