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Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Strike by pilots hits all cargo flights at Asiana Airlines


South Korea's Asiana Airlines scrambled to find alternative ways to ship products for some of the country's biggest corporations after canceling all of its cargo flights yesterday because of a pilots' strike.

The airline, South Korea's second-largest, dropped 78 of its 163 scheduled domestic passenger flights yesterday as well as a flight to Sydney, Australia, its first international cancellation, Asiana spokesman Jason Kim said.

Asiana was forced to suspend all three scheduled cargo flights yesterday, the strike's third day, and was working with other carriers including Germany's Lufthansa Airlines to find substitutes, Kim said.

"Today the cancellation of all cargo flights is causing some problems for us," Kim said.

The airline's cargo customers include Samsung Electronics Co, LG Electronics Inc and Hyundai Motor Co, he said.

On Monday, the airline canceled 81 domestic flights and four of seven scheduled cargo flights.

The airline's unionized pilots walked off the job on Sunday for the second time in less than two weeks, demanding more rest days, a greater say in management decisions and a raising of the retirement age from 55 to 60.

Asiana's management is trying to juggle schedules to protect key domestic and lucrative international routes during peak summer travel. It is operating flights with nonunion pilots and any unionized pilots who haven't joined the strike.

LG Electronics, the world's fourth-largest mobile phone handset maker, and Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest maker of memory chips, reported no major disruptions because of the strike.

"At the moment, we don't have any losses and we're trying to find alternative routes," said Hong Jong-pum, a spokesman for LG.

He said the company mostly ships handsets on Asiana.

The airline has 839 pilots, with 516 in the union, according to Asiana, although the union claims eight additional members. A total of 342 union pilots had joined the strike as of yesterday morning, union spokesman Lee Hack-ju said.

Asiana management and the union weren't talking yesterday, with both sides accusing the other of being unwilling to meet.

Union pilots at Korean Air, the nation's largest carrier, earlier this month launched a work slowdown to demand better benefits and job security. No major disruptions have been reported from the slowdown.

The strike at Asiana and the slowdown at Korean Air have gained little support in South Korea, with newspaper editorials and public opinion largely critical of the pilots.

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