Colombia’s largest airliner, Avianca, was forced to cancel 150 flights on Wednesday after pilots called a strike amid a labor dispute with the company.
The first day of the strike affected some 18,000 passengers and cost Avianca approximately $2 million, reported newspaper El Espectador.
Some 700 pilots refused work starting 4AM after 12 hours of negotiations over their demands to cut working hours and increase wages with 30%.
The mass strike is the first since 1994 and the latest escalation of a labor dispute that has been ongoing since 2002.
According to Avianca CEO Hernan Rincon, the pilots’ demands would cost the company $200 million.
The CEO accused pilot union Acdac of having betrayed the airliner’s trust allowing the strike to continue while negotiations were ongoing.
Acdac accused Avianca of illegal labor practices and defended the strike claiming neither the state nor the company had taken any action to make sure Avianca complies with labor laws.
The airliner and the labor union are expected to continue talks on Thursday while flights remain on the ground.