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What About Passenger Safety?

Posted July. 26, 2005 03:08,   


“We can’t take time off for a holiday and just work. Pilots also are logging up to 13 hours of daily flying time in accordance with their operational provisions.”

As of July 25, it’s been nine days since the pilot union of Asiana Airlines staged a strike, but labor and management are still refusing to negotiate and are prepared for a protracted strike. Under the circumstances, complaints are coming from Asiana Airlines’ employees.

With the arrival of the high season of the summer holiday, flight attendants and staffs deployed to the busier airport are always on standby. Out of 826 pilots, approximately 400 pilots, who didn’t join the strike, are currently undergoing a schedule twice as hectic as the normal one, and are suffering from risk of the potential safety-related accidents.

So far, a pilot “A” who usually flies three to five hours on medium-range routes in Southeast Asia has had only one day off since the all-out strike started on July 17.

“A” said, “In normal times, I took a day off every four days but, I have a day off every five days these days. I feel so tired that my lips crack.” “A” added that he checks out his dashboard two or three times on a flight as if he was double-checking an extinguished fire.

According to “A,” when pilots on duty fly a short-range route, such as to Japan or China, they have to return to Korea within a day. In addition, even after a pilot finishes his flight, he maintains a “multi-duty system” in which he flies another route with little or no break in between.

Asiana Airlines had around 280 flights daily, but that number has declined to some 180 due to the cancellation of all of its recent domestic flights.

Asiana Airlines openly stated that despite the strike, it will normally operate international flights and that it can operate flights bound for Jeju, which has no other alternative form of transportation, as scheduled.

However, the current situation of hampered operations began to get serious starting last weekend. In the case of international flights, a flight for Sydney was cancelled, and the cancellation rate of flights for Jeju hovers around 20 percent. More than 90 flights bound for Jeju were usually flown on a daily basis before the strike.

A general manager of the operations management team for Asiana Airlines, Yoon Joong-geun, noted, “Although the cancellation rate of flights is increasing than we expected, we are able to maintain the current level of flights during the high season.”

Employees working at the airport are raising their voices against labor and management going to the limit, for they are refusing to compromise.

“B,” an executive of Incheon International Airport, said, “Labor and management are only trying to gain profits under the justification of safe flight operations.”

“B,” an executive at the Incheon International Airport, further pointed out that as a worker he finds it difficult to consent to a strike by high-income workers earning 100 million won in annual salary, while wandering from one resort to another.

Hee-Jae Park min07@donga.com