Wildcat strike grounds Bangladesh national carrier

DHAKA — Flights of the Bangladeshi state-run carrier Biman were severely disrupted on Wednesday after pilots called in sick en masse in an unscheduled strike, officials said.

On Monday, Biman grounded four pilots who are accused of being the ringleaders of protests at plans by the airline to raise pilots’ retirement age to 62 from 57 years and trim their benefits.

The acting head of the Bangladesh Airlines Pilots Association (BAPA), Zakir Hussain, said pilots would not operate any flight unless their suspended colleagues were reinstated.

“Our members will not operate any scheduled flights unless the decision is revoked. We will only carry Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia,” he told AFP, adding more than 100 of Biman’s 117 pilots had joined the strike.

The national carrier operates 15 flights a day on average on 18 international and three domestic routes.

Biman chief executive Zakiul Islam said Biman aircraft had flown to two international destinations despite the “unlawful actions” by the pilots.

“Some 40 pilots reported sick en masse after we grounded four pilots fearing for the safety of the passengers. Their de facto strike has affected some of our flights,” he told AFP.

The state-run airline will use foreign pilots to operate long-haul international flights, he said.

Last week, BAPA members stopped flying extra hours other than their scheduled 70-hour monthly air time to press their demands.

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