Asiana Airlines counts cost as strike heads into fifth day

  • Business
  • Thursday, 21 Jul 2005

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - A pilots' strike at Asiana Airlines, South Korea's number two carrier, stretched into a fifth day Thursday after talks between management and union leaders failed to resolve their differences and the airline was forced to cancel more flights. 

Unionised pilots walked off the job Sunday for the second time in less than two weeks, demanding more rest days, a greater say in management decisions and an increase in the retirement age to 60 from 55. 

Management and union officials met Wednesday after a one-day break but "no special progress'' was made, said Asiana spokesman Oh Kyung-keun. 

The two sides were to try again Thursday, he said. 

Passenger services to Sydney, Australia, were dropped again for Thursday as were 78 domestic flights. 

The strike has cost the airline 9.1 billion won (US$8.7 million; euro7.2 million) so far, Oh said. 

The pilots' union was digging in for the walkout to possibly extend into next week. 

"I think the company doesn't have the will to solve this problem quickly,'' said Lee Sang-jun, a union spokesman who flies Boeing 747-400s for Asiana. 

Asiana indefinitely suspended its 35 weekly international cargo flights Tuesday, forcing the airline to find alternatives for shipping the goods of some of South Korea's biggest corporate names, including Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. and Hyundai Motor Co. 

Three scheduled cargo flights Tuesday were to have carried 230 tons of liquid crystal displays, semiconductors and other products. 

Asiana has been working with other carriers including Germany's Lufthansa Airlines to reroute the traffic. 

"Most of the important cargo has been transferred to Korean Air and other cargo flights,'' said Asiana's Oh. Korean Air is the country's biggest carrier. 

The airline is trying to juggle flight schedules to protect key domestic and lucrative international routes during peak summer travel, operating flights with nonunion pilots and any unionized pilots who haven't joined the strike. 

More than half the pilots belong to the union, but so far not all have participated. 

The airline has maintained full passenger service to the southern resort island of Jeju despite canceling about half its domestic flights since Monday. 

The service to Sydney, suspended since Tuesday, is the only international passenger route to be canceled. 

Asiana estimates that just the cargo suspension could cost it 16 billion won (US$15.3 million; euro12.7 million) a week and 70 billion won (US$67.2 million; euro55.5 million) a month in lost sales, spokesman Jason Kim said. - AP

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