17 pilots quit in 'normal' exodus

17 pilots quit in 'normal' exodus

Nok Air transfer desks are closed. The airline had yet another story for the public on Wednesday. (Photo by Pattarachai Preechapanich)
Nok Air transfer desks are closed. The airline had yet another story for the public on Wednesday. (Photo by Pattarachai Preechapanich)

At least 17 Nok Air pilots have quit the company, a day after the airline's top executive dismissed as false an earlier report about pilots quitting in response to recent flight cancellations.

On Tuesday he had insisted no pilots had left the firm.

A source at Nok Air said that, as of Tuesday, as many as 17 pilots tendered their resignations which will take effect next Tuesday. The company has a total of 192 pilots.

According to the source, more resignations are expected following the Feb 14 strike.

Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin admitted Wednesday that a number of pilots had resigned but refused to specify the number. He downplayed the effect of the pilots quitting, saying other airlines also see people come and go. He said Nok Air's turn-over was being linked to the Feb 14 pilot strike. 

"I see it as being normal if other pilots in the same group quit after three pilots were sacked," he said.

Following the Feb 14 work stoppage that affected 17 Nok Air flights and about 3,000 travellers, Nok Air dismissed three pilots.

Key reasons behind the strike included problems ranging from pilot shortages to disagreements over structural changes to the airline.

Mr Patee reassured that Nok Air is addressing structural problems and will resume normal operations next Tuesday.

He said the company was recruiting some 30 new pilots. 

Meanwhile, Chula Sukmanop, director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, said Nok Air announced the cancellation of four flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai today and Nok Scoot will cater to the affected passengers.

The cancellations follow the suspension of some scheduled domestic flights including round-trip flights to Trang, Surat Thani and Khon Kaen, suspended through to Monday.

Mr Chula went on to discuss a recommendation by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to prohibit lithium-ion batteries, widely used in laptops and smartphones, as cargo on passenger aircraft, saying the measure is unlikely to affect passengers.

He said the recommendation does not cover lithium-ion batteries in carry-on luggage and only pertains to batteries shipped as cargo on passenger aircraft.

The recommendation becomes effective on April 1. 

Mr Chula said the measure will have little impact as the country is not a major manufacturer of the lithium batteries. Moreover, lithium batteries are usually banned from checked luggage by airlines.

According to Mr Chula, the new ICAO safety measure is in fact not a prohibition but a recommendation, but most airlines follow ICAO recommendations. 

He added that many airlines have suspended cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries as they can pose safety risks if not shipped in accordance with transport regulations.

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