A week after 730 pilots walked-off the job resulting in wide-spread cancellations for passengers traveling on Avianca Colombia flights, the strike continues with no progress in talks between the company and the ACDAC union.
On Tuesday night, the airline shelved a “final proposal” to resolve the strike which it considers “illegal” after the Superior Court of Bogotá considered “inadmissible” a law-suit presented by Avianca against the union, stating the document did not meet the “legal requirements”.
The court’s delay on ruling on the legality of the labor dispute continues to ground 250 flights a day.
According to Avianca’s President, Hernán Rincón, the strike is also costing the airline US$2 million a day.
As one of Latin America’s largest carriers, Avianca is also the world’s second-oldest airline, founded in Barranquilla in 1919. The pilot strike is the first serious labor dispute since the airline was purchased by the Brazilian investor Germán Efromovich in 2004. According to Efromovich, in order to ease a backlog of cancellations, crew members from Avianca’s subsidiary in Brazil, owned by the CEO’s Synergy Group, will arrive in Colombia to temporarily take over flights. Avianca Holding shares have fallen 8% in trading since the strike was announced September 15. Five days later – on the first day of the strike – more than half of Avianca’s 1300 pilots didn’t show up for work.
The NYSE-listed company was trading Thursday at US$7.66.
But the strike isn’t just disrupting the travel plans of the some 22,000 passengers every day. According to Monica de Greiff, President of the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce (CCB), which represents some 600,000 businesses in the Colombian capital, the strike is resulting in lost productivity and competitiveness. “The suspension is very serious, since it’s an essential service […] and citizens, tourists and businesses are assuming high costs and losses,” she said.
In a statement released by the CCB, “the competitiveness of Bogotá is being threatened. The image of Bogotá as one of the most attractive cities in Latin America for foreign investment, tourism and business is now at risk.”
On Thursday, the airline reactivated ticket sales, after suspending online and retail operations last week.
Bogotá’s El Dorado airport is the third busiest in terms of passenger movement in South America, and most important gateway of tourists arriving to the country. On Wednesday, the presidents of the nation’s airlines affiliated with the Colombian Air Transport Association (Asociación del Transporte Aéreo en Colombia – ATAC) petitioned President Juan Manuel Santos to set-up a special arbitration board to resolve the strike.
The presidents of Copa Colombia, Eduardo Lombana; Satena, Pedro Lozano; Latam Colombia, Santiago Alvaréz; VivaColombia, William Shaw, and Easyfly, Alfonso Avila write in a letter that strike action is illegal as air travel constitutes “an essential public right.”
In an official statement, Avianca said it could withstand a strike up to 90 days and has resumed ticket sales after a three-day suspension. In the meantime, as a peak travel week approaches, when students across the nation go on recess mid-October, a resolution to this bitter dispute continues to elude this nation.