Colombian Pilot Strike: Avianca Reactivates Tickets Sales Despite Massive Disruptions; Pilot Union Reportedly Lowers Salary Demands
Amid an ongoing, now-nine-day-long pilot strike that is severely disrupting the operations of Avianca, the Bogotá-based airline announced that it will begin selling tickets again today. However, Avianca’s online sales system has been experiencing issues throughout the morning.
Those searching for flights online have received error messages such as “We cannot process your request at this time” or “Internal Server Error.” Further complicating the situation is a global flight check-in system outage that has reportedly affected some 125 airlines across the world and caused confusion at airports from Washington to England to Singapore.
The complications come just hours after Colombia’s largest airline put out a statement saying that, “after analyzing the information for flights operated during these days of contingency, the airline has decided to gradually open sales to meet the passengers’ needs.”
As technology allows, Avianca plans to resume selling tickets for all its domestic and international routes, including those connecting through its hubs in Lima and San Salvador, both of which it says “are operating normally.”
The ongoing strike by the Colombian Civil Aviators Association (ACDAC) has already forced the cancellation of 1,954 flights and affected 183,000 people, according to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
ACDAC, which represents around 700 of Avianca’s 1,300 pilots, called off talks in mid-September, with its leaders announcing that the union would resort to a strike due to the carrier’s inability to meet its requirements. The union’s primary demand is for Colombian pilots to receive a salary bump to put their earnings on par with foreign pilots working for the airline, in addition to improvements to other working conditions, according to ACDAC.
According to El Tiempo, ACDAC presented a new labor proposal with lower salary demands to the government during a meeting yesterday with Colombian Labor Minister Griselda Restrepo at the Casa de Nariño in Bogotá. An arbitration
In recent days, the government has urged the union and Avianca to double their efforts to reach an accord as the Ministry of Labor continues to mediate dialogue between the two sides. “As long as this space for open dialogue remains, we are optimistic that progress will be achieved,” said Restrepo earlier this week in a press briefing.
Other airlines in Colombia are also hoping for an end to a strike that is straining air travel conditions across the country, according to El Tiempo.
Avianca continues to categorize the strike by the pilots union as illegal, as in its view air travel qualifies as an essential public service that cannot be disrupted by a labor dispute under a law passed in the 1990s.
Due to the persistent strike, Avianca has also waived change fees through the end of November for passengers who have to reschedule their flights.
Passengers will still have to pay for any difference in fare and the fee waiver does not apply to flights between October 6–17, according to the carrier. To be eligible for the fee-less flight change, travelers can contact Avianca’s call center or enter a physical sales locations. If the original ticket was purchased through a travel agency, the change must be made by that same travel agency, the company stated.