Mountain Temple - 'Temples nestle in the trees on Dobong-san mountain'.jpg

Ten days of passenger misery as TAP union announces strike

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

Passengers flying with Portugal’s indebted national carrier TAP face 10 days of misery following a decision by crew members to strike this month and next.

Strikes have been announced to take place on June 18, 19, 20 and 25 and on July 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

The announcement was made at a general assembly meeting on May 31 of the National Union of Civil Aviation Flight Personnel (Sindicato Nacional do Pessoal de Voo da Aviagco Civil – SNPVAC).

The decision forced the national flag carrier’s CEO, Fernando Pinto, to completely alter his diary over the summer to cope with the crisis.

The union says it is angry at the airline’s decision to cut the number of flight attendants on each flight and accuse TAP of violating agreements.

TAP top brass said it was caught by surprise at the decision because negotiations over staffing levels were still ongoing.

Fernando Pinto has been complaining that TAP’s “only sin” was its “excess of flight attendants”.

He added that it was the only part of the company that was “out of sync with airlines in the rest of Europe” which have been cutting back on in-flight personnel. Iberia was held up as an example of economy.

Despite reducing the number of attendants on board by one staff member per flight, TAP argues that it is still meeting legal conditions which state that there must be one flight attendant for every 50 passengers.

With a fleet similar to that of the Spanish carrier Iberia, and made up almost entirely of Airbus planes, TAP carries around 132 passengers on an Airbus 319 and 274 passengers on long haul flights on an Airbus 340.

“The number of cabin crew on board Iberia planes depends on the size of the aircraft, the route it operates, and the service it offers on board,” explained an official source for the Spanish carrier, explaining that free catering or paid for services significantly altered the number of staff required.

TAP has no such paid-for ‘sandwich service’ on board its planes, therefore arguing staffing levels should remain as they are.

Fernando Pinto said that the strike could deal a “fatal blow to the company” since it was being staged at the height of the holiday season.

The Government has called on the unions to call off the strike which would only damage Portugal’s image abroad at a particularly difficult economic time as well as affecting the chances to privatise the company later this year.