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China Eastern fined 1.5 million yuan, stripped of routes
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By John Sexton

China's Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) today fined China Eastern Airlines 1.5 million yuan and announced that a number of routes operated by the airline's Yunnan Branch would be transferred to other carriers.

The decision follows incidents on March 31 and April 1 when 21 China Eastern flights returned to their point of origin, Kunming in southwest Yunnan Province, in what is widely believed to have been industrial action by pilots.

The CAAC also ordered China Eastern to install improved flight data recorders within three months.

The CAAC investigation concluded that only 3 of the 21 flights had valid reasons to turn round due to bad weather or technical faults. In 9 cases, lack of adequate data recording equipment made it impossible to determine why the flights turned back.

The CAAC also called on China Eastern to ensure flight safety, compensate passengers affected by the incidents and severely punish those responsible for the disruption.

A number of China's airlines have recently been affected by industrial action by aircrews. Pilots are particularly unhappy with restrictive contracts that lock them into long periods of service at a single airline with punitive penalty clauses if they resign.

(China.org.cn April 17, 2008)

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