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Pilots’ plight at SriLankan Airlines

16 August 2023 12:04 am - 25     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


At SriLankan pilots have raised alarm bells regarding a series of issues that have not only impacted job satisfaction, but also potentially compromises on the safety of flights



In recent times, the skies above SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier of Sri Lanka, have become clouded with concerns expressed by pilots and their union. As the aviation industry continues to deal with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, pilots of SriLankan have raised alarm bells about a series of issues that are not only impacting job satisfaction, but also potentially compromises on the safety of flights.

According to the Airline Pilots’ Guild of Sri Lanka (ALPGSL) a staggering shift of almost 70 pilots to rival airlines underscores the gravity of the situation. An official representing the ALPGSL union said that approximately 12 pilots have submitted resignations and opted to fulfill their obligatory three-month notice periods. Pilots complain that this mass exodus has placed existing pilots under immense pressure, with extended working hours becoming the norm. 


We are stressed due to heavy workloads. Hiring foreign pilots is not an option for SriLankan due to high costs. As they don’t hire new pilots, the ones who are working now are working around the clock. – An ALPGSL representative 

A closer look

A SriLankan pilot shared a candid insight under the condition of anonymity into the challenges faced by them. “There is nothing being done by the SriLankan management to retain the pilots,” he said. He stated that the upheaval began with the onset of the pandemic, which triggered a wave of pay cuts and the removal of incentives, such as onboard meals. The pilot complained that the impact of these reductions and several other issues caused the departure of numerous experienced colleagues. An ongoing struggle with the management to uphold the terms of initial contracts further escalated tensions. “Amidst these tensions, it is apparent that other airlines lure pilots with more appealing compensation packages, worsening SriLankan’s retention crisis,” he said.

The mandated rest period between flights- which international standards peg at a minimum of 12 hours- is considered critical. Despite these norms, pilots reveal that they often find themselves working relentlessly.
“We are stressed due to heavy workloads. Hiring foreign pilots is not an option for SriLankan due to high costs. As they don’t hire new pilots, the ones who are working now are working around the clock. The management is not open to negotiations. Everything is decided one sided,” the pilot claimed.
Safety concerns

Adding to the already precarious situation are safety concerns that pilots and their union members have flagged. These issues are primarily linked to the practices of the crew scheduling department and have potentially far-reaching consequences. Among the concerns are instances where newly appointed instructors are assigned to operate on the right-hand sear and conduct training without meeting the minimum required instructor hours, a violation of established protocols. The pilots’ union has informed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regarding several complaints including incidents where crew members have also reported about incorrect standby periods for cancelled duties and miscalculation of rest periods, leading to disruptions in flight schedules.



All flights are operated according to the guidelines provided by CAASL which are in line with global standards. CAASL also audits our operation accordingly. - Deepal Perera SriLankan Airlines Spokesperson




Union’s demand change

Amidst these challenges, a clarifying incident in June 2023 involving a delayed flight further highlighted the complexities of airline operations. SriLankan flight UK 470 which was to depart on June 20, 2023 at 2020 hours- with a batch of applicants seeking jobs in Korea- was delayed. The management later sent a clarification citing the flight was delayed after a ‘cockpit crew member’ fell sick and a rested replacement conforming to aviation safety regulation could not be found until the next morning.
“Due to the various regulations for fatigue and safety that govern operating crew, there was no available replacement until the morning of 21 June 2023.
 All airlines have delays from time to time. 

This is an industry which is highly regulated for safety reasons with strict rules governing flying hours, maintenance checks and under what conditions an aircraft may or may not fly,” the airline said in the statement. The situation escalated to such an extent that the Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva intervened, convening a meeting between union leaders and the airline management. The official, representing the ALPGSL speaking anonymously, recounted the minister’s words, “Just like doctors leave Sri Lanka, you can leave too. Nobody is stopping you.”



Just like doctors leave Sri Lanka, you can leave too. Nobody is stopping you - Nimal Siripala de Silva Aviation Minister






‘Fly the Roster’ campaign launched  

In response to these mounting challenges, the pilots have undertaken a campaign, ‘Fly the Roster’. This campaign underscores their determination to adhere strictly to the published roster, refraining from accepting changes or flying on designated off days.“Despite many challenges, we have been very cooperative with the management. We worked extra to cover crew shortages by sacrificing our annual leave and our designated days off. All this time, we were flexible for any changes in our published rosters. However, we realized it is not sustainable. We are now refusing to fly on our off days and also not accepting changes to the published roster. We informed the Head of flight operations about this campaign,” an ALPGSL representative said. 

“we do have regular meetings with the pilots union”- deepal perera

The Daily Mirror contacted SriLankan Airlines spokesperson Deepal Perera, to obtain a comprehensive overview of the pilots’ concerns outlined earlier. Mr. Perera’s response was succinct: “All flights are operated according to the guidelines provided by CAASL which are in line with global standards. CAASL also audits our operation accordingly. We can confirm that we do have regular meetings with the pilots union.”

  Comments - 25

  • W Ananda Wednesday, 16 August 2023 04:49 PM

    Siripala has no brain he will collapse the Srilankan airlines as he stopped the construction work in the Airport. Now nobody is responsible for Airport construction. He doesn't know the value of a pilot. He thinks he can hire foreign pilots where no foreign pilot will join with less salary. Siripala is a narrow minded culprit who should not be alive in this earth.

    Rubu Fernando Thursday, 17 August 2023 06:44 AM

    He seems to have forgotten the day when he ran around naked slippered by his wife for infidelity! This scum is all about "what is in it for me". A bribe taker - with no conscience. A waste of space he occupies!

    AZOOR Junaideen Thursday, 17 August 2023 02:41 PM

    He is a bloody crook who demanded a bribe from the Japanese builder - reason airport project is stalled. Who suffers the average traveller

    ANNECUNT Wednesday, 16 August 2023 05:41 PM


    Jeanne Wednesday, 16 August 2023 06:06 PM

    What an arrogant stance to take. How dare you fob off concerns particularly when they involved passenger safety. Just unbelievable. Pay the pilots their fare wage or sell the damn airline to a company that can afford to keep our brilliant pilots flying for Sri Lankan Airlines. They do an amazing job.

    Benildus Fernando Thursday, 17 August 2023 02:01 AM

    Save Sri Lankan Airlines. Need good qualified People. God bless this wonderful Airline.Best Of luck

    Jeanne Thursday, 17 August 2023 05:17 AM

    @W Ananda : fully agree. What an arrogant statement for Siripala to make. No doubt he uses other airlines to get about around the world. He should be sacked for making a comment like that. This is just one of the reasons why Sri Lankan Airlines should be privatised.

    Wilbur Right Thursday, 17 August 2023 12:41 PM

    No matter what's said and done Siripala and the 224 thieves are in power. It's obvious that GOSL desperately need to close down this colossal loss making treasury busting so called an airline. Anybody who's in need of a paycheck should look for work overseas. The traveling public can avail services of Qatar Etihad Emirates Singapore Malaysian etc who offers a better product via own hubs.

    vithura Thursday, 17 August 2023 04:34 PM

    It is time the government steps in by appointing a competent minister with a mandate to expeditiously facilitate the takeover of this sick organisation by a world class airline to give it a renewed life and start all over again from scratch. Cleaning up the balance sheet of its debt and the accelerated shedding of staff through systematic restructuring will be key to achieve this.

    Saliya Thursday, 17 August 2023 05:19 PM

    So this Nimal will have no one to treat him or fly him

    Tilak Thursday, 17 August 2023 05:20 PM

    This bribe taker stopped one of the much needed project, as a result many engineers lost their jobs- He would probably say to them-"like the doctors nd pilots left, you too can leave. No one is stopping you"

    ANNECUNT Thursday, 17 August 2023 06:08 PM

    When mahinda goes to hell he will steal the devels underpants and siripala will ask for a bribe

    Moh Sleiman Friday, 18 August 2023 06:17 AM

    GUYS we need educated people to manage a country.Please tell me from the PRESIDENT to the house keeping employs who s educated?So Nimal Siripala no exception.LIVE with this pain.

    UMAS ALI Saturday, 19 August 2023 01:51 PM

    i wonder what namal going to steal when he becomes the giving chicken buriyani packet and a bottle of arrack to get the vote

    Observer Monday, 21 August 2023 11:04 AM

    With Keheliya in the Health Sector, Siripala in the Avion Sector, Amaraweera in the Agricultural Sector, PavitraDevi in the WildLife Sector, Bandula in the Transport Sector, all are in Crisis ? Ranil is happy to continue with them.

    MrA.A FUCKGALORE Thursday, 24 August 2023 01:32 PM

    we don't want this airline in sri-lanka

    Kandiah Balendran Thursday, 24 August 2023 02:04 PM

    Pilots get over 4 million rupees per month (including allowances), while more than half the salaried workforce get less than thirty thousand per month.

    Sivalingam Thursday, 24 August 2023 02:06 PM

    A supermarket cashier gets a basic salary of twenty thousand and pilots who get millions are complaining. What a rotten lot these SL airlines pilots are, not second to the leeches of Diyawannawa.

    Maina Monday, 28 August 2023 09:45 PM

    Nimal Siripala should be flying the plane with you in it !

    Kabir Hashim Thursday, 24 August 2023 02:07 PM

    Worst airline ever, people should boycott.

    Nilmini Welivita Monday, 04 September 2023 09:47 AM

    We can easily overcome this problem if we train our air hostesses to fly. They can serve passengers once they put the plane in autopilot.

    Unbeliever Wednesday, 13 September 2023 03:21 PM

    Nilmini brilliant idea.You together with our lady MP should ask for votes as president and prime minister for the post of nincompoops.Unbeliveable.You can appoint sivalingam as your chief minister.

    Rip Winkle Wednesday, 13 September 2023 09:12 PM

    Nilmini Welivita, your suggestion is as awful as your singing.

    Premalal Perera Friday, 15 September 2023 01:15 PM

    Why don't the politicians leave the country like the doctors, engineers and other professionals? We will be so happy.

    Chicoo Saturday, 16 September 2023 06:37 AM

    For everyone info the stupid minister had also said “HOPE A PLANE CRASHES WITH THE PILOTS!THEN THIS PROBLEM WILL BE OVER!” Oh !the irony of things on the land like no other!!!

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