Attempts made by SriLankan Airlines to recruit foreigners had failed due to low pay and high taxes here, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) MP Dayasiri Jayasekera told Parliament on Friday (07).He said that the management of SriLankan and the line Minister were encouraging pilots to leave the airline.
“The dispute between pilots and the management of SriLankan Airlines continues. It was recently revealed in Parliament that SriLankan needs 330 pilots to operate optimally and that we have only 260. The winter season is coming soon. This is the best time for tourism, but we don’t have pilots to increase flights to top tourism source markets,” Jayasekera pointed out.
SriLankan has 24 aircraft, out of which only 17 operate. Two are in the hanger, and the other five can’t operate because of the shortage of pilots, he said. SriLankan airlines offer low salaries compared to top airlines like Emirates, and most experienced pilots remain with the airline because their families live here, the SLFP MP said.
“Emirates pays about 10,000 dollars; we pay about 7,900 dollars. Pilots have been demanding an increment, starting in 2020. For some reason, the Minister and top management of SriLankan is trying to drive away local pilots. We don’t need to pay these pilots Emirates rates; just address their concerns. SriLankan management wanted to recruit foreigners, but no one has come due to low salaries and taxes,” Jayasekera said.
He also said that ground handling operations at Mattala airport are to be taken from SriLankan and given to Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd.
“SriLankan has been doing ground handling in Mattala for over a decade. They have trained the staff, recruited from that area, and had made an investment of about 10 million U.S. Dollars. Previously, ground handling of Ratmalana airport was given to Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd and their bad service led to the cancellation of Maldivian Airlines flights to Ratmalana. Now Mattala is to be given to this entity, and the government will have to be responsible for losses incurred due to bad service by inexperienced staff,” he said.
Jayasekera said that a number of staff members recruited from Hambantota have been transferred to Katunayake, and it was impossible for them to make this commute.
“This is not the fault of the current Minister; these were recruited during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time. However, as you can see, it is not possible for these people to make this commute,” he said.
In response, Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Aviation, Nimal Siripala de Silva said that the problem lies with the attitude of the pilots.
“We had 316 pilots when we had 26 planes, and there was no problem. Now there are 15 planes and 266 pilots. There is no shortage of pilots; the problem is that the pilots have no dedication to their duty. Recently, there was an issue with a flight to South Korea. There were 20 pilots who could have operated the plane, but none of them wanted to,” he said.