Beijing: China's aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) has suspended pilots suspected of carrying out a strike action that resulted in planes not landing at scheduled destinations, according to reports in state controlled media.
According to the China Daily, pilots from China Eastern Airlines, who were suspected of turning back planes in southwest China's Yunnan province last week, were suspended pending investigation.
It said that two senior airline officials at the company's Yunnan branch were also dismissed.
"The Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) of China has ordered China Eastern Airlines to suspend cockpit crew suspected of turning back planes and to step up the investigation and seek the leaders responsible," the CAA said.
According to a CAA statement,18 regional flights in Yunnan took off according to schedule on 31 March, but turned back mid-flight as pilots reported bad weather. Preliminary investigations by the CAA established that the weather at all destinations in the province was suitable for aircraft landings.
The number of pilots suspended through CAA's action is not known. The regulator also asked China Eastern Airlines to compensate passengers who were inconvenienced by the action.
What appears to be a case of strike action, a rare occurrence in this tightly controlled country, came only after the pilots circulated an open letter to China Eastern Airlines officials asking for improved work conditions, including better pay and working hours, according to reports in the local media.
The incident comes on the back of another one on 28 March, when 11 pilots of East Star Air disputed working conditions with their company in the central China city of Wuhan delaying operations at the airport.
Another incident on 14 March saw 40 pilots from Shanghai Airlines reporting sick at the same time.
It appears that China's domestic pilots have been asking for better pay and privileges after pilot shortages have led airlines to hire foreign cockpit crews who receive better salaries and perks.