Struggling Czech Airlines to dismiss one-third of pilots


The struggling state-owned carrier Czech Airlines announced on Monday it will a dismiss a third of its pilots as part of restructuring plans, with some receiving their pink slips as early as this week. According to the firm, up to 100 pilots will be let go, although, the company suggests the cloud may have a silver lining: the possibility of further employment with subsidiary company Holidays Czech Airlines. The catch is that working for the subsidiary will be nowhere near as lucrative, offering significantly lower salaries.

One hundred pilots out of 300 will be let go in the coming days and weeks Czech Airlines (ČSA) announced on Monday, saying the move was needed as part of restructuring plans, making no bones about it. The hard-hit airline, which operated at a 632 million crown loss last year, needs adjustments in the face of a drop in demand and is curbing the number of pilots and planes – 11 short- and medium-distance aircraft in its fleet – in response to current economic realities. The 11 planes are to be offloaded to Holidays Czech Airlines, a subsidiary charter firm.

Therein lies the rub for CZALPA, the pilots’ union, whose members are up in arms over restructuring plans they charge will eventually drive the carrier into the ground. Its pilots took carefully coordinated sick leave last week to protest the changes, which led to the cancellation of more than 30 flights on Thursday and Friday, forcing ČSA to temporarily hire replacements. The announcement on Monday that the company will dismiss 100 of its pilots is at least in part punishment for the protest, the pilots’ union spokesman Filip Gaspar said:

Filip Gaspar,  photo: Czech Television
“We knew that the move was coming based on a decision approved by the management and when you look at management’s statement from Friday, as well as comments made by the finance minister, it is clear which pilots will be the ones let go.”

But Czech Airlines denies the move is personal. According to the carrier, those let go will depend strictly on the labour code; representatives argue the move, as well as the offloading of 11 planes, is strictly to help the company regain stronger footing. What’s more, the firm points out, many of the pilots let go will still be able to still retain jobs at Český Aeroholding’s Holidays Czech Airlines. Jiří Marek is the company’s vice president of sales & marketing:

“It’s no secret that there is a crisis in Europe and in the eurozone and ČSA is only planning according to long-term developments. If there is not enough demand for Czech Airlines but there is in the subsidiary, it makes sense to transfer the 11 planes there. At the same time, the move will save jobs.”

Illustrative photo
Maybe so, but ties between the firm and the pilots’ union now couldn’t be frostier, after members were excluded from talks on Monday where the dismissal plan was discussed with employees. It is unclear how many pilots let go will apply to continue at the subsidiary firm, but the union has made clear that at least some – upset with the ČSA management – will hold further protests soon.