All be­cause of an in­tru­sive app

The Malta Business Weekly - - FRONT PAGE -

On one level, Air Malta is con­stantly re­ported as mov­ing for­ward to­wards prof­itabil­ity (though not there yet, even if it was promised to reach this by March). But on another level, spo­radic news emerges that leads one to sus­pect there are deep-seated prob­lems in the air­line that can­not be made right. The lat­est spat con­cerned the pi­lots and the new­est plane leased by the air­line. One would have thought the pi­lots would be happy to work in this ad­vanced en­vi­ron­ment which is more en­vi­ron­men­tal-friendly, and con­sumes less fuel. In­stead, the pi­lots had one look at the new plane … and went out on strike. Or rather threat­ened to strike but this threat soon evap­o­rated. The cul­prit this time was a new app which, it seems, con­tin­ued to record any­thing said in the cock­pit after the plane lands. Now one would like to know what sort of con­ver­sa­tions take place in the cock­pit once the en­gines are switched off and how th­ese con­ver­sa­tions are dif­fer­ent from what is said dur­ing the course of a flight. On the other hand, one would like to know what the com­pany in­tended to get from this de­ci­sion that risked a strike on its hands. The Air Malta pi­lots suf­fer from a dou­ble whammy: to the rest of the pop­u­la­tion they have a huge salary and ad­di­tional perks, such as, at least un­til re­cently, of get­ting picked up at home be­fore a flight. On the other hand, the Air Malta pi­lots look at their coun­ter­parts in other air­lines and be­come green with envy con­sid­er­ing the salaries and perks on of­fer. They are a se­lect few but their power is enor­mous. If they were to strike they would cut off Malta from the rest of the world and we would be­come as iso­lated as we were in times of sails. The air­line has cho­sen to lease a new plane, with another fol­low­ing in the com­ing months, as a re­sult of its change of strate­gic di­rec­tion to­wards a big­ger air­line con­nect­ing to more coun­tries. This new strate­gic di­rec­tion is a gam­ble. One un­der­stands the pre­vi­ous strate­gic di­rec­tion would have driven the air­line into the ground but it is far from cer­tain that the new strate­gic di­rec­tion will de­liver growth and cut down on losses. The jury is still out, even though the air­line now po­si­tions it­self as ‘ the air­line of the Mediter­ranean’ and is be­gin­ning to fly be­tween des­ti­na­tions out­side Malta. In th­ese cir­cum­stances, the in­dus­trial ac­tion called just be­cause of the ex­is­tence of cock­pit recorders that could not be turned off was both un­called for and leads one to sus­pect, wrongly it would seem, on what type of con­ver­sa­tions take place once the plane lands. The air­line, it would seem from an ALPA state­ment yes­ter­day, has ac­cepted to switch off the recorders once the plane is on land. On the one hand, it would seem, the air­line has backed down in the face of threats of in­dus­trial strife. On the other hand, one is at a loss to un­der­stand why the air­line risked in­dus­trial strife over such a sim­ple mat­ter. All in all, it would seem, the pi­lots once again made a show of force and got away with it. Maybe the real prob­lem of the air­line is the ex­tra­or­di­nary power its work­force in its var­i­ous sec­tions, has, not just the pi­lots. Un­less this is ad­mit­ted and faced, the air­line will al­ways re­main an ail­ing air­line.

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