EVA Air Corp (長榮航空) yesterday canceled 50 flights after about 500 of the company’s flight attendants went on strike, leaving operations at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in disarray.
They have exercised their right to ask for leave of absence due to a natural disaster and have followed the proper procedures, the nation’s second-largest airline said.
EVA Air spokesperson J.C. Kuo (柯金城) at a news conference at the airport apologized for the inconvenience caused by the strike and said that the company would assist passengers in changing or refunding tickets free of charge.
Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times
He also thanked the ground staff and flight attendants who came to work yesterday.
Kuo said he could not speculate on the motives of employees who chose to go on strike the day after Typhoon Nesat hit the nation, adding that further calculations are needed to determine the financial losses caused by the strike.
The airline had planned to resume normal operations yesterday morning after the weather caused it to cancel or postpone several flights scheduled to depart on Saturday.
However, the company received more than 500 requests from flight attendants for leave yesterday after all counties declared a typhoon day.
Despite making major adjustments, the company said it still needed to cancel 50 flights.
An estimated 10,000 passengers were affected, the company said, adding that it has activated a contingency plan to reduce its effects.
Taoyuan International Airport Corp (TIAC, 桃園國際機場公司) said it has allowed EVA Air and its passengers to use the airport’s conference room to negotiate compensation or leave.
It also advised the airline to divide the delayed passengers into different groups based on travel destinations and handle them in separate batches.
Apart from increasing security personnel to maintain order in the terminals, TIAC said that restaurants in the airport have been asked to ascertain whether they have enough food to meet the demands of stranded passengers.
The passengers care about how the airline will help them change tickets to other carriers, TIAC president Hsiao Ting-ko (蕭登科) said.
EVA Air has asked some of its off-duty employees to return to work and assist at the check-in counters, Hsiao said, adding that it has also distributed meal tickets and water to the affected passengers.
The strike has affected many tour groups traveling to or from Japan, the Tourism Bureau said.
As of 4pm yesterday, 1,003 such travelers had canceled their trips, while 1,324 Taiwanese tourists in Japan were unable to return, bureau statistics showed.
The airline’s labor-management contract grants permission for flight attendants to take a leave of absence after natural disasters.
The contract was negotiated after the company was found to have dispatched 45 flights when the nation was still under the influence of Typhoon Megi last year.
Commenting on the airline’s response, the EVA Air Corporate Union said it was upset that the company took it for granted that employees would work on a typhoon day and had passed the buck to the flight attendants.
Working on a typhoon day would mean operating in a high-risk environment, the union said, adding that they would gladly cooperate with the company if it can guarantee their safety and enforce other measures.
The employees’ absence was legal, as government regulations allow workers to skip work for safety reasons if local governments announce that all offices are to be closed due to a natural disaster, the Ministry of Labor said.
Although employers may deduct wages for the day, they cannot mark an employee absent or ask them to make up missing hours, it said.
The work contract has precedence over government regulations, the ministry added.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications could not be reached for comment as of press time last night.
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