FIJI AIRLINE PILOTS LEAVE FOR MIDDLE EAST JOBS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 2) – Fiji airline Air Pacific yesterday denied that a recent spate of resignations by local pilots was related to frustrations over an influx of foreign pilots.

Airline chief executive John Campbell confirmed that over the last three weeks, nine local pilots had resigned, seven of which were designated to fly the new generation Boeing 737 aircraft.

He said the company would next week add two more expatriates to its list of 22 contracted foreigners to replace Fijian pilots.

And he said the airline expected more resignations soon.

"Pilots are resigning to take up highly paid contracts in the Middle East in the much same way as other Fiji residents are resigning employment in a range of skills to undertake well-paid work in Kuwait, Iraq and other parts of Middle East," Campbell said.

The comments come after more than 500 passengers were stranded at the weekend after B737 pilots called in sick.

"In all our daily operations we have standby pilots and cabin crew so that when staff call in sick we are able to allocate standby pilots or cabin crew," he said. "If we receive an unusually high number of staff calling in sick, it is inevitable that the standby lines are depleted and flight re-arrangement is necessary."

Campbell said pilots were leaving Air Pacific after Oman Airways paid off their three-month notice period.

He said the airline would recruit and train more national pilots to replace the ones who were leaving.

"The national pilots will take some time before they are able to commence flying duties therefore contract expatriate pilots will be required to bridge the gap," he said.

The airline is yet to estimate the cost of accommodating stranded passengers.

February 3, 2005

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