SPAIN'S Iberia airline said this morning it had resumed normal flights, ending an indefinite suspension after only 5-1/2 hours because pilots who had quit over a pay dispute had agreed to keep flying until they could be replaced.
Iberia, Spain's biggest airline, announced on Thursday evening it would suspend all flights indefinitely from 2200 GMT because it could no longer guarantee its operational safety after 99 pilots resigned en masse in a long-running pay row. But the suspension, which had threatened to cripple transport services in Spain, was called off after the pilots who had resigned agreed to work until substitutes could be found, an Iberia spokesman told state radio. From 5:25 a.m. (0325 GMT) flights have started to operate thanks to a change in attitude by the pilots who have resigned, spokesman Luis Guell told state radio. They have said they are prepared to assume the responsibilities implied by their posts, he said, though he added that their decision to step down was still in force. The number of pilots, members of the union SEPLA, who had sent the company letters of resignation had risen to 144, he said. State radio reported that civil aviation authorities, who report to the development ministry, had disagreed with Iberia's decision to halt all Iberia flights, and said this partly explained the airline' s decision to resume normal activity. Iberia's 1'900 pilots have been involved in an increasingly bitter dispute over pay, and had called one-day strikes once a week during July and August to back their demands. Talks between the two sides broke down completely earlier this week. On Thursday, as Spanish airports faced the prospect of holiday chaos, opposition parties, tourism and consumer associations urged the government to act fast to limit the damage to Spain's holiday industry, which accounts for one tenth of the nation's economy.
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