Taiwan's China Airlines cancels flights due to strike by pilots

China Airlines was forced to cancel 22 international flights, including those to or from Los Angeles, Manila, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok.
China Airlines was forced to cancel 22 international flights, including those to or from Los Angeles, Manila, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI - A strike by pilots has forced China Airlines, one of Taiwan's two major carriers, to cancel 18 international flights, the official Central News Agency reported early on Friday (Feb 8).

Among the destinations which will see flights to or from Taiwan cancelled are Los Angeles, Manila, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok, the agency reported. Information on affected flights is also posted on the airline's website.

It is the first time that air travel in Taiwan has been disrupted by a strike during a Chinese New Year holiday, according to Central News Agency. Taiwan's nine-day break for Chinese New Year will end on Sunday.

The main bone of contention between China Airlines and its pilots is workload, the report said. Pilots demanded on Friday that the company beef up crews to address the problem, otherwise they will go on strike indefinitely.

"We are asking the company to remove factors that cause pilots fatigue and threaten flight safety," Lee Hsin-yen, chairwoman of the Pilots Union Taoyuan, told a news conference.

She said CAL should assign four pilots and co-pilots instead of the usual three to all flights of more than 12 hours, and three cockpit crew instead of two for flights of at least eight hours. The pilots also want CAL to establish a transparent promotion system and hire more Taiwanese instead of foreign pilots.

More than 100 of the union's 900 members - representing 80 per cent of CAL's pilots - were on strike and the number was growing, Lee said. 

In a separate news conference, CAL said current staffing is legal and that the proposed move would significantly increase operational cost of the company and reduce its competitiveness.

The airline said the strike has so far only affected 18 flights, or 10 per cent of its transport capacity, urging passengers not to panic as it will work with other airlines to send them to their destinations.

The issue of overwork for the aviation sector has always been a tricky one in Taiwan, as under its Aircraft Flight Operation Regulations (AOR) -- which are aligned with global aviation industry standards -- a cabin crew may not perform more than 14 hours of work within a 24-hour period on international flights.

Taiwan's Labour Standards Act stipulates, however, that no worker can work for more than 12 hours per day, even with overtime.

It remains unclear how long the latest strike will go on. The airline pilots' union is scheduled to release more information later on Friday.

In June 2016, China Airlines was forced to cancel 76 flights due to a 24-hour strike by flight attendants.