September 19, 2017 / 1:38 AM / 10 months ago

Avianca suspends ticket sales in Colombia amid strike threat

BOGOTA, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Colombia’s flagship airline Avianca on Monday said it would suspend the sale of tickets to local destinations after more than half of its Colombian pilots voted last week to hold an indefinite strike over wages and benefits.

The airline said it would stop ticket sales for Sept. 20 to Sept. 22 to maintain service quality and mitigate operational problems the work stoppage could cause.

“We have suspended the sale of tickets to and from destinations in Colombia for September 20, 21 and 22. This measure is intended to mitigate potential damages in the operation,” Avianca said in a statement.

The strike is expected to begin at some point between Sept. 20 and 27, Captain Jaime Hernandez, president of the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (ACDAC), told Reuters last week.

ACDAC members want their salaries to be in line with those received by Avianca pilots in other countries, who earn 30 percent to 70 percent more than local pilots, it said.

Avianca, which has called the strike illegal, said it presented ACDAC leaders with more than 20 proposals to improve the benefits Colombian pilots receive.

About 700 of the nearly 1,300 Avianca crew are affiliated with the ACDAC, making it the carrier’s biggest union.

The union also wants to reduce the workload of the pilots.

Avianca, a member of the Star Alliance and one of the leading airlines in Latin America, carried 29.5 million passengers in 2016, has more than 21,000 employees and serves 105 destinations in 28 countries in America and Europe.

The labor ministry has initiated mediation to try and prevent the strike. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, Writing by Helen Murphy)

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