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China Airlines pilots strike in midst of New Year travel rush

Over 4,000 travelers to be impacted at three major Taiwan airports

A China Airlines plane at Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan.   © Reuters

TAIPEI -- The pilot's union for Taiwan's China Airlines began striking on Friday, leading to the cancellation of 26 flights through Monday in a heavy blow to the region's peak travel season.

The stoppage comes in the midst of Asia's roughly weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, and could significantly erode customer trust in the island's flag carrier.

Of the airline's 2,500 pilots, 700 union members walked off the job on Friday. It is unclear how long the strike will last.

The strike affects more than 4,000 travelers at the Taoyuan and Songshan airports serving Taipei, as well as Kaohsiung International Airport in the south. Cancellations includes flights to and from Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila.

Since last year, the pilot's union has been pushing China Airlines to ease staffing crunches and increase compensation for nighttime shifts. But the carrier had rejected the demands as a cash grab.

The airline's captains make 300,000 New Taiwan dollars ($9,700) or more a month. That is less than at rival carriers like Eva Air, according to local media reports.

China Airlines overhauled its leadership back in 2016 in response to a separate strike by cabin attendants.

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