PAL scores victory against AWOL Pilot

Settles for 3.3M compensation claim

October 12, 2010

Philippine Airlines scored victory anew against its erring pilots when the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) ordered pilot Zenon Lukban, who went absent without leave (AWOL) to pay the flag carrier P1.5-million plus interest, at the rate of six percent annually, for training fees at the PAL aviation school and other penalties for violating his contractual obligations and training agreement with his employer in 2006.

Presiding Judge Elpidio Calis of the Makati RTC Branch 133 also ordered, in its September 15 decision, Zenon Lukban to reimburse PAL the amount of P1.87 million, plus interest, for the cost of training his replacement, as well as P50,000 in attorney’s fees.

Lukban’s training agreement with the airline required him to serve the flag carrier for five years in exchange for the cost of training paid for by PAL.

However, Lukban left the company two years after completing his training on April 19, 2006. His resignation was to take effect on May 20, 2006. On May 8, 2006, PAL management officially rejected Lukban’s resignation saying this was in violation of his training contract which was to expire on July 2009.

The agreement also required the pilot to file his notice of resignation 120 days before the intended date of resignation. This requirement has since changed to 180 days after the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) declared the job of pilots and aircraft mechanics as “mission critical skills.”

PAL is currently preparing a multi-million peso damage suits against 27 pilots and first officers who resigned in August 2010 to take higher-paying jobs in the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. So far, 16 pilots and first officers are facing charges of abandonment of duty and breach of contract before a Makati Regional Trial Court.

The abrupt resignations from the pilots and firtst officers forced PAL to ground its airbus fleet of A320's and cancel some of its domestic flights last July.

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