Avianca airline offers to reinstate about 100 pilots

BOGOTÁ, Nov 25 (Reuters) – Avianca Holdings, which seeks to finalize its restructuring process under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Law, will offer the possibility of reinstatement to about 100 pilots who left the airline after a strike in 2017, the company reported Thursday.

At the beginning of November, a United States court confirmed the reorganization plan that the airline accepted in May 2020.

“Without a doubt today we marked a milestone in our history and this opportunity is a golden opportunity to start from scratch, to strengthen teamwork and build the Avianca we all need,” Avianca President and CEO Adrian Neuhauser said in a statement.

The airline faced a 51-day strike by its pilots between September and November 2017, which cut its operation in half at its most critical time.

The cessation of activities, declared illegal by a high court, forced the airline to ground several of its planes, affecting thousands of passengers.

After the strike ended, dozens of pilots were fired based on the declaration of illegality, while others resigned or were retired.

Avianca Holdings will change its domicile to the United Kingdom and its shares are no longer traded on the Colombian Stock Exchange, after a United States court confirmed its reorganization plan in early November.

Avianca’s approved business plan covers all the axes of its operation, including the destinations it will serve, the planes it will operate and the way the airline will serve its customers.

The plan will allow the airline that was Colombia’s flagship to have a route network with a fleet of more than 130 aircraft to serve more than 200 point-to-point routes in Latin America by 2025, as travel demand recovers.

The pilots who decide to reintegrate will do so under the same conditions that were agreed in 2020 for the rest of the aviators.

The company, which has some 14,000 employees, including around 1,000 pilots, will initiate a training program that exceeds the requirements of aeronautical regulations.

“The pilots and the administration of Avianca, divided by the circumstances of the past, come together again to keep Colombia connected and supplied, while seeking to help all the workers of the company,” said the president of the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators, Jaime Hernández.

Avianca and LATAM Airlines underwent restructuring under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Law when the coronavirus pandemic hit the airline sector due to mobility restrictions, which were especially harsh in Latin America. (Report by Luis Jaime Acosta, edited by Nelson Bocanegra)

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