CLARK FREEPORT -- Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) president Victor Jose Luciano has requested two airline companies here to help in manning routes currently affected by the recent labor dispute within the Philippine Airlines (PAL) management.

PAL flights have been marred by cancellations and delays since last week due to desertions by pilots. Twenty-five pilots and first officers quit abruptly last week, forcing the cancellation of 18 PAL flights on Saturday and Sunday and four domestic flights on Monday.

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Issues regarding pays and contracts have been on top of recent reports regarding the issue.

Luciano said Sunday that the Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus has instructed him along with other leaders in the airline industry to contact airline companies in case of a vacuum in the routes under PAL.

The CIAC president said that Spirit of Manila and Pacific Flyer had committed three aircrafts in case the need arises. But Luciano was quick to add that the DOTC is monitoring the situation very carefully as it may have an effect in the tourism industry particularly from inbound flights from other countries going through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Luciano assured that the current problems of PAL have no effect on the tourism sector within the Metro Clark Area as flights going in and out of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport are "straight flights."

He, however, said that PAL would eventually need to face the problems with its disgruntled employees sooner or later to prevent further inconvenience to the riding public.

The DOTC, according to Luciano, has taken great lengths to resolve the situation among the two camps.

Currently, the airline industry may also face another problem regarding availability of experienced pilots in the country specifically around areas with airports of potential growth expansion.

Asia alone, according to Luciano, is in need of 4,000 new pilots. Such demand, with the lucrative pay packages of bigger airline companies abroad is a constant temptation among the country's experienced pilots, according to the airport official.

"Airline companies, sooner or later, would have to face the reality that they would need more pilots. Schools and the industry in the area should be able to respond to this need. But currently, the sheer expense that entails studying is also a hindrance. But there are some schools that offer a loan program on such," Luciano said.

Luciano even projected the Armed Forces of the Philippines may even lose pilots to the commercial airline industry because of the benefits to pilots given by other airline companies abroad. (Ian Ocampo Flora)