Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hong Kong airline halves pay for pilots as slump hits flights

Hong Kong - In a sign of the worsening impact of the global slump on Asia’s aviation industry, pilots with a Hong Kong airline said Monday they had been fired for not accepting drastic pay cuts. The pilots - four first officers and five captains - say they were sacked by Hong Kong Airlines after declining new contracts that cut their basic salaries to as little as 2,250 US dollars a month.

A spokesman for the airline, which employed 52 pilots before the sackings, confirmed the dismissals but denied they were connected to the new contracts. He declined to say why the pilots had been sacked.

However, the move comes amid severe cost-cutting at the start-up airline, which operates Boeing 737 aircraft on regional flights. Earlier this year it asked all cockpit crew to take a week’s unpaid leave.

The new contract cuts basic salaries for first officers to between 17,500 Hong Kong dollars (2,258 US dollars) and 22,500 Hong Kong dollars a month and for captains from 30,000 Hong Kong dollars to 40,000 Hong Kong dollars, according to a copy seen by the German News Agency dpa.

In addition to their basic pay, all pilots receive a monthly market-based adjustment lump sum of 10,000 Hong Kong dollars and a possible bonus based on monthly flying hours of up to 1,000 Hong Kong dollars.

According to one of the sacked pilots, basic monthly pay for captains previously ranged from 65,000 to 75,000 Hong Kong dollars and 40,000 to 45,000 for first officers.

“We declined to sign the new contract and wrote to the management saying we wished to stay on our present contracts,” the pilot said. “There was no response. Everybody who did not sign the new contract was simply terminated.”

Letters were sent out to the nine pilots on April 2 telling them they were being terminated and wishing them all the best for the future without giving any reason for the sackings, according to another of the dismissed pilots.

The sackings come after Hong Kong’s biggest airline Cathay Pacific in March announced a record 1.1-billion-US-dollars annual loss for 2008 and asked its pilots and cabin crew to take unpaid leave. (dpa)

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