Pakistan International Airlines Flights Resume After Engineers Call Off Nationwide Strike

KARACHI, Pakistan_Engineers with Pakistan's state-run airline ended a nationwide strike that left thousands of passengers stranded for two days, though they failed to secure sought after pay rises, union officials said Saturday.

Officials at Pakistan International Airlines said - with 5,000 people affected - it could take days before flight schedules return to normal.

More than 800 airline engineers had been pushing for salaries that match internationally acceptable standards last week by reducing productivity in a go-slow campaign. When that did not work, they announced plans to collectively take "sick leave."

On Friday, 92 domestic and international flights were canceled, forcing officials to turn away long lines of irate passengers. By Saturday morning, airline spokesman Nasir Jamal, said just 25 percent of the carrier's flights were running, forcing the national railway to run extra trains.

The engineers agreed to go back to work because they were worried about the welfare of the passengers, said Mashkoor Hussain of The Society of Aircraft Engineers, which is representing the striking employees. He said they would continue to push for pay rises, but did not elaborate.

Debt-mired Pakistan International Airlines, which has suffered a cumulative loss of US$583 million (€400 million) over past four years, said it could not afford to meet the workers' demands. It did not immediately comment on Hussain's claims that the airline had not made good on a 1989 deal promising engineers 50 percent of pilots' incomes.

Considered one of the best airlines in the developing world in the 1960s and '70s, Pakistan International Airlines has seen its fortunes plummet in recent years, and last-ditch efforts to turn things around by spending on new aircraft and foreign consultants have backfired.

In March, the European Union barred most of the airline's planes due to safety concerns.