The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

ALPA, Air Malta trade barbs over delayed Palermo flight

Wednesday, 11 September 2019, 17:22 Last update: about 9 days ago

Media reports claiming that a Palermo-Borsellini flight had been delayed because the flight’s pilots were buying flowers in Amsterdam “is a complete smoke screen intended to cover management's shortcomings,” pilots association ALPA insisted yesterday.

ALPA said out had carried out held its own internal investigation and discovered that “the facts on the ground portrayed a different picture to that being propagated by Air Malta management through the media”.

But the airline said it was it was saddened by the behaviour of some members of the pilots’ community, saying this alleged behaviour was unacceptable.

In a statement issued in the morning, ALPA said the the flight was retimed with a 17-hour delay by the company “so that crew operating from Amsterdam would then head on to operate to Palermo as well. Ground handling support in Amsterdam did not manage to get cleaning services onboard on time, thus extending the delay in Amsterdam.

“The shameful tactics being employed by the company in tarnishing its own pilots with frivolous claims will not affect the pilot community from continuing to carry out their duties diligently and safely as ever,” ALPA said.

ALPA explained how the captain scheduled to operate to Palermo on the morning of 9 September 2019 was transferred to operate Catania instead, as the originally scheduled captain on Catania did not have the minimum legal rest between his previous flight and the Catania flight thus requiring him to step down from his duty.

Air Malta, ALPA said, management routinely delays flights so that crew can avail themselves of their minimum legal rest periods.

“Mismanagement within the higher tiers of the company is undeniably causing passenger inconvenience and heavy financial losses to the company,” ALPA stressed. “Our members are currently working at their legal limits and have been prevented from availing themselves of last year’s vacation leave entitlement, despite the Union’s various complaints in this respect. This has been a major contributor to a spike in fatigue experienced and reported by our members.”

ALPA reiterated that the current problems stem from the fact that Air Malta does not have enough pilots. Air Malta is currently training new First Officers and considering a new recruitment drive to address this shortfall.

In its own statement, the airline said the case reported in the media had a further ripple effect on Monday’s delayed Palermo flight.

It added that 13 pilots reported sick this weekend

“These unprecedented sick leave figures are clearly not in line with industry norms. The airline is disappointed that a disproportionate amount of management time is being dedicated to addressing unreasonable industrial disputes.”

Air Malta emphasised again that insofar as it is concerned, an agreed position was reached on all matters with ALPA. “In fact, Air Malta accepted, and is still willing to sign, the proposed agreement sent to it by ALPA on the 29 June 2019. The reality is that ALPA are still insisting on a Government guarantee for a €700 000 euro early retirement payment per pilot,” the airline said.

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