Sat, Dec 14, 2019 - Page 1 News List

FAT aims to resume operations

By Kao Shih-ching, Chien Hui-ju and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

People line up at a Far Eastern Air Transport counter at Kinmen Shangyi Airport yesterday after the airline announced refunds for canceled flights.

Photo: CNA

Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT, 遠東航空) chairman Chang Kang-wei (張綱維) yesterday said he aims to resume normal operations at the company, if authorities approve, as he has secured pledges for funds.

Chang, who could not be reached by the media or colleagues on Thursday, made the statement one day after FAT said it was halting services due to financial problems.

“I hope aviation regulators would allow us to resume services, as new capital of NT$100 million [US$3.3 million] should be available in two weeks,” Chang told a news conference at the company’s headquarters in Taipei.

He remains committed to FAT, Chang said.

An internal letter to shut the company was written by colleagues, who misjudged the situation, he said.

“The letter was written by managers, who judged the situation incorrectly,” he said.

Chang said he turned off his mobile, as he was “in a bad mood” over the financial stress, although he kept in touch with company management.

The company could not pay about NT$30 million in interest and payrolls, due to funds from investors being unavailable, he said.

If he were to close the airline, he would not have issued wages on Dec. 5, Chang said, adding that he never gets into anyone’s debt, be they contractors, customers or employees.

“Yesterday was the most frustrating day in my life... I did want to die when I wrote the farewell letter,” he said. “Soon after I gave the letter to the media, new investors said they would inject funds to keep FAT alive, which I previously thought was impossible.”

“God took care of me and FAT,” he said.

There are three groups of new investors with financial strength, he said, declining to reveal their names.

Chang said he is to share control of the firm to ease the burden.

Prior to yesterday’s drama, FAT maintained regular cash flow, with NT$40 million in its booking account, while regular expenditure included NT$100 million for fuel and NT$80 million for wages, he said.

Later yesterday, Chang sent a letter to FAT employees, saying that management was working to solve the financial problems and hoped they would all remain at their posts.

Separately, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said it has fined FAT NT$3 million and asked the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to revoke its civilian airline transportation license as of Thursday night.

The CAA declined to comment on whether it would allow the airline to reapply for the license.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said the ministry would do everything in its power to protect the rights of consumers, FAT employees and travel agencies.

The CAA and the Tourism Bureau have been tasked with assisting those affected by FAT’s sudden interruption of services, and aim to mitigate as much as possible its effects on the tourism industry and elsewhere, Lin said, adding that the ministry has contacted the Ministry of Labor for assistance regarding FAT employees’ rights.The transport ministry is in talks with other domestic airlines to resolve an expected increase in travelers over the year-end and Lunar New Year holiday periods, particularly transportation to outlying islands such as Kinmen and Penghu, he said.

FAT’s management should explain how the situation developed, and the company should take full legal and social responsibility for suddenly halting operations yesterday, he said.

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