Updated | Air Malta suspends pilot over Facebook comment

Union says suspension is 'manoeuvre of intimidation on pilot community' but adds it will not take industrial action out of respect for passengers • Board of inquiry appointed to investigate

Air Malta has suspended one of its pilots over a Facebook comment in which he appeared to express satisfaction at a technical fault developed by one of the airlines planes.

The comments, which were first published by ONE yesterday, related to a technical fault developed by Air Malta’s newest aircraft (9H-AHS) last April.  

The union had directed its members not to fly on the aircraft due to the fact that it did not possess a cockpit voice recorder erase button, however the action was suspended after Air Malta filed a  warrant of a prohibitory injunction against the union. 

The technical fault had developed on the same aircraft that was at the centre of the dispute meaning it could not operate despite the court order. 

READ MORE: Flights to operate normally as pilots suspend industrial action

“Reference is being made to social media posts allegedly made by an Air Malta pilot in relation to a technical inflight return on an Air Malta aircraft,” read a statement by the airline.

“The management has taken note of these reports and is taking immediate action and commencing an investigation by an appointed board of inquiry.”

Air Malta said it was suspending the pilot during the course of the investigation. Asked for a reaction to the suspension, ALPA said it was a "manoeuvre of intimidation on the pilot community", adding that it was not prudent to comment further at this stage.

READ MORE: Air Malta Paris Orly flights cancelled after pilots called in sick

On Wednesday Air Malta’s scheduled flight to and from Paris had to be cancelled because of a lack of flying crew.

When contacted, Air Malta said the flights were cancelled due to an "unprecedented number of pilots reporting sick concurrently".

Suspension a knee jerk reaction - ALPA

ALPA said in a statement that the pilot’s suspension was a “knee jerk reaction by the company’s management to a public outcry regarding a misleading media article”.

It said that the pilot in question referred to the irony in an aircraft “following an ALPA directive”.

“This was maliciously taken out of context by the person who forwarded it to an online political party portal,” the union said.

It added that the suspension was also an “attack on a representative of the pilot work force intended only to intimidate the pilot community”.

“One has to bear in mind that this comment was posted on a closed group pilot forum.”

The union said that the only reason it was not issuing an immediate industrial action is to not let passengers “carry the brunt of our company’s bad management decisions”.

“The pilot in question is a highly dedicated and professional individual who would never act irresponsibly towards his passengers, fellow colleagues and the company,” the union stressed, adding that it was united by the individual.

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