Garuda Hit by Mass Pilot Resignations

JAKARTA ~ More than 70 pilots have resigned from ailing national carrier Garuda Indonesia so far this year, citing low pay and poor working conditions, the head of the airline’s union said on Wednesday.

Most of the pilots have been offered more lucrative packages by regional airlines, some of which were planning fleet expansions, said G.S. Stevanus.

“This year alone, 77 pilots have submitted their resignations, although only five so far have left, with the others still in the administrative process,” Stevanus said.

The figure compares with about 110 pilots over the 18 months before that, he said.

Garuda currently employed between 550 and 600 pilots to fly a fleet of around 50 mainly Boeing aircraft, he added.

The airline has faced fierce competition from regional and low-cost carriers, some of whom can afford more attractive packages for pilots.

Its safety record was also tarnished after a Garuda plane crash-landed in March on the runway in the central Java city of Yogyakarta before bursting into flames, killing 21 people.

The United States has advised its citizens against flying on any Indonesian airlines in the wake of the Garuda crash and other recent incidents involving different carriers.

Garuda has struggled to pay off its debts in recent years, although its net loss narrowed in 2006 to Rp197 billion (US$22.4 million) from a loss of Rp688.47 billion the year before.

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