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Strike disrupts PIA flights to Gulf

By Agencies

Strike by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) staff has disrupted flight schedule to Dubai and other Gulf states affecting thousands of passengers.

Strike action forced ailing state carrier PIA to cancel flights to Britain and Turkey on Tuesday, affecting more than 1,000 passengers, a spokesman said.

Pilots, crew and kitchen staff are demanding that management reinstate five pilots suspended on disciplinary grounds and are protesting against a proposed codeshare agreement with Turkish Airlines.

The flights concerned were from the capital Islamabad to Birmingham in central England and Istanbul, as well as four domestic flights.

Another flight from Karachi to Dubai was delayed by several hours for "operational reasons", spokesman Mashhood Tajwar said.

"Today's strike affected about 1,500 passengers overall," he said.

Five pilots were recently suspended and around 70 PIA employees forced into compulsory leave last month over "agitation" against management plans, a senior company official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

If it goes through, the codeshare agreement will see PIA suspend flights to Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and US destinations New York and Chicago.

The airline spokesman said the proposal is subject to approval from the government and other regulatory authorities.

"PIA and Turkish Airlines have proposed a codeshare arrangement, which is done by most airlines to increase profitability and enhance routes without incurring additional costs," said Tajwar.

PIA has suffered losses of around ê1 billion in the past six years, another company official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Tajwar said "only a couple of hundred" out of 18,000 PIA employees had responded to the strike call.

"We hope the effect of the strike will be diluted tomorrow (Wednesday) as most of our employees are working diligently," he said.