Updated | Flights to operate normally as pilots suspend industrial action

Pilots' industrial action suspended after Air Malta filed a warrant of a prohibitory injunction against the Airline Pilots Association • The action came as a result of a missing Cockpit Voice Recorder erase button • 160 passengers were affected 

Flights are expected to begin operating normally after the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) temporarily suspended its industrial action.

Air Malta had filed a warrant of prohibitory injunction against the ALPA due to a breach of Collective Agreement signed just a few months ago. The court subsequently decided to uphold Air Malta's warrant, the airline said.

The airline's court action follows ALPA ordering industrial action after it instructed pilots not to operate flights on the airline’s newest aircraft (9H-AHS) that joined the fleet last weekend.

Air Malta said the industrial action was unexpected and announced just 22 minutes before a flight was scheduled to be operated by this aircraft. It is understood that the flight which has been delayed is Air Malta's KM646 flight to Catania, which was scheduled to leave at 1:35pm, and which has now been delayed by nine hours. 160 passengers were affected.

Sources close to ALPA told MaltaToday that the reason for the industrial action relates to the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder which records audio from the cockpit for the purpose of investigation of accidents and incidents.

The recording from the cockpit cannot legally be used for any purpose other an incident investigation. All of the aircraft in Air Malta’s current fleet possess a button in the cockpit that allows pilots to erase the recording after a non-eventful flight, however the new aircraft, which was recently leased by the aircraft, does not.

“The collective agreement clearly states that pilots should be able to erase the recording at the end of a flight if there was no incident to report,” the source told MaltaToday.

They added that a meeting was scheduled to take place between the airline and the union on Monday in order to find a way forward.

Air Malta confirmed that the dispute relates to the absence of the Cockpit Voice Recorder erase button, which is one of the ways in which cockpit voice recordings are deleted once an uneventful flight is completed, and added that arrangements were already made for the functionality to be reinstalled, “in order to avoid qualms on such insignificant matters of interpretation.”

“This function, which is not present in the 9th aircraft has no relevance to the safety of flights, nor does it in any manner jeopardise the pilots' privacy rights, however ALPA views its absence as a breach of the Collective Agreement,” a spokesperson for the airline said.

Air Malta dded that the action was disproportionate, estimating that it will initially cost it over €180,000 in compensations and charges, and that it was in flagrant breach of the collective agreement signed only a few months ago.

It also accused the union of disrupting the holiday plans of several Maltese and tourists who were travelling with their families on this long weekend. "The airline has strongly condemned this action and said that it will do everything in its power to protect its interests and those of its passengers and minimise disruptions," the spokesperson said.

Air Malta advised passengers to check www.airmalta.com and its social media channels for more information on its flight schedule changes.

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